Walmart: Less amazing than Amazon

WALMART is at an “inflection point”. Those words are truer now than when Bill Simon, the head of its American operation, uttered them last October. He was talking about Walmart’s plan for the first time to open more small and medium-sized stores in 2014 than giant “supercentres”, and all that would mean. Now another big change looms. On February 1st the company gets a new chief executive, Doug McMillon (pictured), until now the head of its international business.In some respects Mr McMillon looks like a natural choice to manage a behemoth that inspires loathing and loyalty in equal measure. A native of Arkansas, Walmart’s home state, he started out in one of the company’s warehouses, rose as a specialist in merchandising (deciding how goods are displayed and sold in stores) and was head of the Sam’s Club unit, stores where members buy in bulk.Genial and approachable, Mr McMillon may cure the corporate laryngitis that afflicts Walmart when it talks to its 2.2m employees, to its giant customer base (90% of Americans shop there at least once a year) and to critics who say it pays miserly wages and sucks life out of town centres. On January 15th the National Labour Relations Board accused…

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