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In March Wal-Mart increased its share in Central American Retail Holding Company to 51 percent, up from the one-third stake it purchased last year. The majority interest gives naming rights to the Bentonville giant: CARHC is now called Wal-Mart Central America. The entity owns 375 supermarkets in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica; Wal-Mart has not announced plans to rename those chains.

A recent report calculates that, in 2005, about 300,000 Wal-Mart employees and their dependents relied on taxpayer-funded public health care. To the tune of $1.37 billion. Wal-Mart said 43 percent of its employees received company health-care coverage, down from 48 percent a year earlier. In April the mega-giant tried to soften its image by offering expanded health programs to employees.

The “Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity Zones” initiative was inaugurated in April on Chicago's West Side. That neighborhood is the first of 50 the company has identified as high-crime and high-unemployment nodes where a new Wal-Mart may generate job growth, and where its discount prices may be highly attractive to consumers. The company has pledged to redevelop vacant buildings and dead malls as part of the program.

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