Disruptive Forces: Walmart

By Chris Gonsalves Print this article Print


Location: Bentonville, Ark.

CEO: H. Lee Scott

Revenues: $351 billion

What they do: The nation’s preeminent discount retailer is a fixture in nearly every U.S. city and town.

Disruptive qualities: Any company that racks up sales of $1 billion per day leaves a big wake when it changes course. When Wal-Mart said it would get into the movie-rental business, analysts starting predicting the demise of Blockbuster and Netflix. The company’s RFID initiative has almost single-handedly buoyed the nascent technology. And when the retailer said it would open health clinics in 400 stores, Intel’s Grove said American health care was in for a sea change. “Wal-Mart is in an excellent position to assume the role of the disrupter,” Grove wrote. Recent forays into banking and smaller neighborhood markets has two new sets of businesses trembling before the Wal-Mart juggernaut.

The tech that makes them tick: Wal-Mart is an early adopter of a lot of cutting-edge distribution, tracking and inventory technologies, most notably RFID. The company also ramps up efficiency with the world’s largest installed base of NCR FastLane self-checkouts. But Wal-Mart’s proactive IT efforts are perhaps best known for the retailer’s supply chain management capabilities, which combine traditional and online tools to improve the efficiency of procurement, warehouse and logistics management, inventory management and demand forecasting. Now among the biggest players in the green movement, Wal-Mart, which sold more than 100 million CFL lightbulbs last year, is using a Cleantech Web-based tool to identify environmentally friendly technologies and make green improvements to its operations.

Who they are disrupting: Wal-Mart is a threat to Main Street America and every personal service offered therein.

Reason to discount? Harvard Business Review’s Taylor wonders whether Wal-Mart’s infamous tin ear for customer service and employee relations might thwart its efforts to move up the services food chain. “The only thing less attractive than a visit to the doctor’s office is a trip to Wal-Mart,” he says.

Return to the list of DISRUPTIVE COMPANIES

This article was originally published on 2008-03-27
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.