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Walmart Retains Retail Crown Despite Slings and Arrows

Posted by Dale Buss on March 30, 2011 12:30 PM

Wal-Mart (the company) and Walmart (the brand) keep performing, despite a recent slowing in same-store sales.

According to brandchannel parent Interbrand’s newly released 2011 Best Retail Brands ranking, Walmart is the top U.S. retail brand for the third year running. This despite slipping 8% since Interbrand's last report and increasingly aggressive competition by rivals (such as Germany's Aldi) on its home turf.

Still, if the mega-retailer can’t win the Supreme Court’s apparent favor and it is decided that a 10-year-old sex discrimination case can go forward, it wouldn’t be the first time the chain has taken the arrows for the rest of Corporate America.

After both sides made their claims before the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday in the vast sex-discrimination case against Wal-Mart corporate, executives of the world’s biggest retailer are probably feeling significantly better about their prospects for victory.

It’s clear from accounts of the oral-argument phase on Tuesday that there was plenty of doubt from the justices about whether the suit had merit. Apparent opinion may have been roughly divided among left-leaning versus right-leaning members of the closely divided court, but most media analysis today gave the nod to the conservative skeptics in the room.

For example, typically centrist Justice Anthony Kennedy wondered how plaintiffs could simultaneously allege that Wal-Mart had a centralized corporate policy encouraging bias against women while at the same time leaving hiring and promotion decisions in the hands of local managers. “The complaint faces in two directions,” Kennedy said,

And Justice Samuel Alito asked the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Joseph Sellers, whether success in making his case that the women’s complaints comprise a viable class action could mean that “every single company” in the U.S. potentially could be in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination. Possibly so, Sellers said.

That would mean wherever a significant disparity could be quantified between the promotional status of men and women — regardless of the actual causes and heedless of the facts in any individual case — a company might be liable. The justices didn’t seem to want to go there.

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