Wal-Mart Positions Itself Ahead Of Holiday Shopping

Wal-Mart is thriving despite the shaky economy, protests from union supporters and allegations of bribery at its Mexican unit. The company's stock price hit an all-time high Wednesday, and holiday layaway sales are off to a sizzling start. It's also introducing a low-cost, pre-paid debit card.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Wal-Mart has managed to thrive despite the slow economy, protests from labor advocates and allegations of bribery earlier this year, at its Mexican unit. As NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, the company stock price hit an all-time high yesterday, and holiday layaway sales are off to a fast start.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: When you type "Wal-Mart protests 2012" into YouTube, you find page after page of videos - rallies against Wal-Mart moving into neighborhoods, against the treatment of pigs before they're turned into Wal-Mart pork products, and against the store's labor practices.

(SOUNDBITE OF WAL-MART WORKERS DEMONSTRATION)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We support you as you fight for change inside a Wal-Mart.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

CHANG: Yesterday, busloads of Wal-Mart employees appeared outside the annual investor conference in Bentonville, Arkansas, to protest reduced hours and lack of worker safety. Inside, executives announced $400 million in layaway holiday sales, in less than a month. That's already half of all layaway sales during the company's last holiday season. Retail watchers say that's evidence that Wal-Mart is able withstand controversy after controversy.

Retail watchers say that's evidence that Wal-Mart is able withstand controversy after controversy. Craig Johnson is from Customer Growth Partners, a retail research firm.

CRAIG JOHNSON: Consumers want to be able to have food on their table, clothes to wear, sports equipment to use, TVs to watch; and they want to be able to get those at the best price they can. And that's what Wal-Mart does.

CHANG: And now - just in time for the holidays - Wal-Mart's testing out same-day delivery, to compete with giants like Amazon; and it's adding a new, low-cost, pre-paid debit card.

Ailsa Chang, NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.