Video: The Saturday Week in Review and ‘Arkansas Week’ on AETN

It’s time to take another look at the week that was in Arkansas Business. First, above, our weekly “Arkansas Business Week in Review,” which airs Saturday mornings on THV 11 News. We look back on a week chock full of Arkansas public company earnings and other developments.

Meanwhile, AETN’s “Arkansas Week,” we talk about the farm bill in Washington D.C., new developments in the Arkansas governor’s race, earnings season and the abortion law in court. You can watch the full episode — which features me, Rick Fahr, David Keith and host Steve Barnes – right here

Arkansas Week Tonight: McDaniel, Shoffner, #ARLEG, Medicaid & Wal-Mart

Arkansas Week on AETN

8 p.m. Friday.

A packed, fast-paced show tonight on AETN’s “Arkansas Week.” I join host Steve Barnes and Michael Hibblen, news director of KUAR-FM, 89.1, in Little Rock and Dr. Price Dooley of the political science department of the University of Central Arkansas.

On the agenda, Dustin McDaniel’s “meet-the-press” moment, more woes for Martha Shoffner, the coming legislative session, the great Medicaid expansion debate, the week in Wal-Mart and Tom Cotton’s first days in Congress.

Lots to cover! You can watch at 8 p.m. tonight or right here as soon as the video is available.

Video: Wal-Mart’s Social Media Push

I stopped by Today’s THV last night to talk about Mark Friedman’s story on Wal-Mart’s social media plans, available in this week’s edition of Arkansas Business.

Friedman surveys Wal-Mart’s recent social media and e-commerce acquisitions — Kosmix, Yihaodian, Newput — and Facebook strategy and reports that this could be the beginning to a big push by the world’s largest retailer to better leverage the social web to drive online sales.

UPDATE: Wal-Mart Says It’s Health Care Plans Were ‘Overwritten,’ ‘Incorrect’


The doctor is in.

UPDATE: Oops! Wal-Mart now says, in a statement here, that:

The RFI statement of intent is overwritten and incorrect. We are not building a national, integrated, low-cost primary care health care platform.

So never mind then!

Original post:

Wal-Mart is already exerting more and more influence in banking, mainly because real banks have treated some of their customers so badly, and now NPR says the world’s largest retailer wants to expand its health care offerings beyond the simple clinics its operates in many of its stores.

Simply put, Wal-Mart wants to be your primary care physician:

The nation’s largest retailer is planning to offer medical services ranging from the management of diabetes to HIV infections, NPR and Kaiser Health News have learned.

In the same week in late October that Wal-Mart said it would stop offering health insurance benefits to new part-time employees, the retailer sent out a request for partners to help it “dramatically … lower the cost of healthcare … by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation.”

On Tuesday, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Tara Raddohl confirmed the proposal. She declined to elaborate on specifics, calling it simply an effort to determine “strategic next steps.”

Why on earth would Wal-Mart enter such a business? Certainly it would drive more store traffic, and there’s no doubt Wal-Mart sees money to made off bloated health care costs.

But there’s about to be demand — something Wal-Mart certainly understands — as the new federal health care law comes online meaning, you know, health care for everyone.

Pile that demand on rural states like Arkansas, which is already seeing a shortage of primary care physicians and specialists, and you’ve got a ripe environment for Wal-Mart’s health care expansion.

Wal-Mart Ending 24-hour Operations at Some Stores


Rethinking 24/7.

From the Citizen-Times in Asheville, N.C.:

At select locations in some markets, the nation’s largest retailer has ditched its round-the-clock, 24-hour schedule, closing some stores from midnight to 6 a.m.

Cities like Montgomery, Ala., Fayetteville, N.C., and Baltimore have watched Walmart end its 24-hour service at some stores within the past year.

Still, Walmart says it’s not a trend, but a business move specific to each particular store.

More of Wal-Mart getting aggressive on those everyday low prices, this time through even lower overhead. Why stay open all night to serve only a handful of people who shop then?

I haven’t heard of any Arkansas Wal-Mart stores changing hours, but we’ll see.

A Look Inside Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in this photo by Mike Pirnique for

Wal-Mart heiress and bad driver Alice Walton gave the press a sneak peek insider her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, just a couple of weeks before its Nov. 11 grand opening. Photographer Mike Pirnique and Arkansas Business Managing Editor Jan Cottingham brought back these stunning images, including the one above.

That got some of us around the day job talking about just what it means, culturally, to bring a world-class museum filled with world-class art to the hills of northwest Arkansas.

For all the bad things people say about Wal-Mart — the corporate retail giant accused of shutting down Main Street, paying inadequate wages, providing workers little in the way of health care, contributing to urban sprawl, harming the environment and dumbing down American culture — it would be interesting to study all the company’s — and its heirs’ — contributions to projects like Crystal Bridges, the University of Arkansas, the planned National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., and others.

I guess the question is, how does Wal-Mart’s cultural contributions stack up to its alleged cultural crimes against America? I mean, there’s going to be Warhols, Lichtensteins, Pollocks and Rockwells hanging in Benton County. And it’s Wal-Mart, of all entities, that brought them there.

Wal-Mart Gets Back to Basics


High fashion is not exactly a top priority at Wal-Mart.

Less than three years after taking on the Big Apple, Wal-Mart is moving is apparel headquarters back to Bentonville:

“Our focus is on jeans, T-shirts, socks and underwear,” [Wal-Mart spokesman David] Tovar said. “We believe that the strategy is working. We didn’t need to have an office in Manhattan.”

The fashion office was opened in early 2009 in the heart of the garment district as part of Wal-Mart’s goal strategy to follow fashion trends more closely. Located on Broadway, between 37th and 38th Streets, the staff assumed a range of duties including buying, product development and design.

But shoppers didn’t buy the trendier mix of clothing.

Part of Wal-Mart’s strategy was a response to what Target has been doing with its fashionable lines of low-cost designer wear (see Missoni, those supply and demand blunders notwithstanding). There’s no question that Target’s apparel is vastly more fashionable than Wal-Mart’s, the world’s largest retailer was hoping to make headway in that space.

But with the recession and a drop in same-store sales in the U.S., Wal-Mart has once again confirmed which side of the bread its butter’s on. They are the everyday low price leader — the place you go for low-cost staples. That’s the strategy that’s kept them on top since Sam’s days, and it’s the one they keep coming back to.

Wal-Mart Bounces Back on Bedrock Philosophy

Sam Walton

Founder Sam Walton, who died in 1992

Wal-Mart, whose U.S. stores have been dogged by lagging same-store sales for the past couple of years, tells analysts at a meeting in a Rogers today that those sales have now risen for three straight months:

The weak U.S. job market and other economic woes have hurt Wal-Mart’s business, straining its core low-income shoppers. But the world’s largest retailer has also stumbled because of mistakes it made in merchandising and pricing.

Wal-Mart since has restocked thousands of products it scrapped in an overzealous bid to clean up its stores. It also stopped using gimmicks like slashing prices temporarily on select item and instead returned to its “everyday low price” strategy, the bedrock philosophy of founder Sam Walton.

“Everyday low prices.” Funny how it keeps coming back to that one simple thing.

Wal-Mart Reserves Decline in U.S. Business []

Arkansas: Doing It Right

In a week’s time, two Arkansas-based private firms snapped up by national (and international) publicly traded giants:

WPP Digital Buys Rockfish Interactive of Rogers

“Rockfish is a fantastic addition to the WPP Digital family,” Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital said in a news release. “Kenny Tomlin [CEO, Rockfish] and his team have built a smart company that understands how technology is changing communications and business.”

Founded in 2006, Rockfish employs 150 people and has offices in Rogers, Little Rock, Dallas and Cincinnati. Its clients include Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, Cisco, Procter & Gamble, United Health, EA Sports and Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale.

Competitive Cyclist Sold to

Brendan Quirk, founder and CEO of Competitive Cyclist, will become general manager of Backcountry’s new bike division. According to a news release, “numerous key Competitive Cyclist employees will also be making the move to” … is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media of Englewood Colo., Fischer said.

Liberty Media has interests in a broad range of electronic retailing, media, communications and entertainment businesses …

WPP Digital is a digital investment arms of WPP, a global conglomerate. Liberty Media’s holdings including QVC, Starz and Evite, and they also have a stake in SiriusXM and a little professional sports team called the Atlanta Braves.

Arkansas business and Arkansas entrepreneurs, gettin’ it done.

Plus: Inc. magazine notes 10 other fast-growing Arkansas private companies.

Cable Sees Its Worst Subscriber Loss, Which Makes Perfect Sense

Cable suffered its worst video loss, shedding 711,000 video subscribers in the second quarter, as six of the eight biggest cable firms reported their most dismal three-month period. Overall, cable, satellite TV and telecom providers shed 216,000 video customers in Q2 compared with a 378,000 gain in the same period a year earlier.

SNL Kagan estimates that almost 3 million U.S. households will use Hulu and other Web TV options as their primary video solution by the end of the year, up from 1.5 million in 2009. For 2011, the company expects that figure to hit 4.3 million. (There are about 115 million TV households in the States.)

- Cable’s decline an incentive for Yahoo, Hulu deal

This has been a long time coming, of course. People can only put with with subpar customer service and expensive, overstuffed channel packages for so long. Add to that the rise of Web-enabled TVs with apps that allow streaming from Netflex, Vudu, YouTube and Hulu and you’ve got all kinds of reason to dump traditional cable.

Mad Men on iTunes

No AMC? We've decided 'Mad Men' is worth paying for, so we get new episodes via iTunes.

Here’s how it’s been working at my house this summer after a move necessitated dumping Comcast. Now we get the four major networks, in HD, and any of their secondary digital channels over-the-air via digital antenna for free. We supplement  that with an $11 per month Netflix subscription, which gets us one DVD or Blu-ray at a time, plus unlimited streaming of Netflix’s Watch Instantly library.

We access streaming content via our Samsung Blu-ray player, which comes equipped with a Netflix app, along with other services like Wal-Mart’s Vudu, Blockbuster, Pandora and YouTube. It’s connected to the Web with our $35 per month SuddenLink high-speed Internet access.

Any other shows we’re missing, we can always connect the MacBook Pro to the TV to access iTunes content or, really, anything else out there for free on Web.

Continue reading