WalMart’s moment in the sun

Whether you love ’em or hate ’em . . . there’s one undeniable fact. As Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins’s News Cut reports this morning, “The worse the economy gets, the better for WalMart.” He also says that WalMart reported this morning that they’re adding 22,000 jobs.

Libraries are a lot like WalMart. With no cash changing hands at the point of sale (that all happens at tax receipt time), we have an even better bang for the buck than Walmart. We are seeing huge increases in business as people look for the lowest cost services possible. And, as WalMart remodels stores and diversifies product lines to improve their image, so are we struggling to do the same.

The News Cut piece links to a Forbes article that says about WalMart “The retailer has cleaned up its stores, upgraded its customer service and spruced up its merchandise. It’s hoping that an improved shopping experience will keep its new customers once economic conditions improve.” Here too is another analogy I ponder. While it seems only a short time ago that we (libraries) were struggling to demonstrate our relevance (that is irrefutable for many), with the economic downfall there is recently little doubt of the value of libraries for a steadily increasing group that couldn’t afford to pay for the services we provide. Will they continue to love us and give us headlines when things get better? Or is the popular vote a fickle but fleeting affirmation?

With WalMart we need to pay attention. Here is our golden moment to give our new visitors the best sales pitch ever. Good merchandise, well displayed , with competent sales and service will keep them coming back.