Video: Inside Wal-Mart

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CNBC
updated 11/11/2004 9:27:35 AM ET 2004-11-11T14:27:35

Wal-Mart—love it or hate it, it is one of the most successful stories in American business, with annual sales this year alone of $270 billion. But where some see Wal-Mart as capitalism at its finest, others see it as a predator, responsible for low wages, suburban sprawl and lost jobs. Wal-Mart Chief Executive Office Lee Scott sat down with CNBC's David Faber and gave him unprecedented access to the United State’s largest retailer and talked about America’s love-hate relationship with the company that is under fire with over 5000 lawsuits. The following is an excerpt from a two-hour documentary on Wal-Mart airing on CNBC.

Inside the biggest managers meeting of the biggest company in the world, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott resembles a retail evangelist, rallying his flock.

“This company is about culture and what happens to us is that by doing this two-times a year, the store managers are hearing directly from the people in the company,” he says.

It’s clear Wal-Mart likes to save you money. But Wal-Mart also likes to save itself money. That was an obsession of the company's founder, Sam Walton.

Today, China figures prominently in Wal-Mart’s relentless drive to lower costs. It is the place many suppliers must turn to if they are to meet Wal-Mart's demand for low prices. Critics say this strategy drains jobs from America.

Wal-Mart is America’s biggest importer from China. How does Scott feel about the jobs lost in America as a result?

“Do I think Wal-Mart is responsible? Clearly the answer is no,” he says. “Moving offshore started a long time before we got to be the biggest sales company in the world.”

The world's biggest store is quickly becoming big in the world outside the United States.

With all those stores, Wal-Mart has also become the world's largest private employer. And in the United States, where it has more than 1.2 million workers, the company has come under sharp criticism for things like its employee health plan.

Wal-Mart spends about $3500 per employee on health costs, which seems to be below the national average of $4400 and below that of large corporations.

How would Sam Walton feel about that?

“Part of the reason we have health care costs like we do is it’s one of the few areas in our life where we are not good consumers,” says Scott. “Sam believed that we, as individuals, pay some of that cost so that we would be able to be enlisted to support the efforts to control the costs of healthcare.”

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