Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wal-Mart and Quality Don't Mix: Fast Company has a fascinating article about "The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart," Jim Wier, CEO of lawn-equipment manufacturer Simplicity. (Readers of my PR Week column will know that I have an almost irrational dislike of the Bentonville-based retail behemoth.)

The article recounts Wier's visit to Wal-Mart headquarters on an unusual mission: to persuade Wal-Mart that it should sell less of his product. Most manufacturers, of course, go there with the opposite objective in mind. Wier felt that the price-conscious superstore was the wrong venue for his high-quality Snapper mowers. In fact, "he looked into a future of supplying lawn mowers and snow blowers to Wal-Mart and saw a whirlpool of lower prices, collapsing profitability, offshore manufacturing, and the gradual but irresistible corrosion of the very qualities for which Snapper was known. Jim Wier looked into the future and saw a death spiral."

His worst suspicions were presumably confirmed when the Wal-Mart executive with whom he was meeting made a suggestion: "Snapper is the sort of high-quality nameplate, like Levi Strauss, that Wal-Mart hopes can ultimately make it more Target-like. He suggested that Snapper find a lower-cost contract manufacturer. He suggested producing a separate, lesser-quality line with the Snapper nameplate just for Wal-Mart. Just like Levi did."

So Wier said no to Wal-Mart. He admits he sometimes second-guesses that decision: "I could go to my grave, and my tombstone could say, 'Here lies the dumbest CEO ever to live. He chose not to sell to Wal-Mart.'" Let's hope he's remember more for his integrity and his commitment to quality.

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