Sunday, November 20, 2005
On this day:

Wal-Mart critics stand in the way of Gulf Coast recovery

Wal-Mart's key to recovery: "We can change on the fly."

The Wal-Mart in Waveland, Mississippi, is one of the few stores in that Katrina-ravaged town that have reopened.
WAVELAND, Miss. (AP) — No other Wal-Mart in the country looks like the store that reopened here more than two months after Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped the town off the map.

Pallets of space heaters, box fans, mops and buckets are stacked on the cement floor. Behind insulated plywood walls, workers repair what used to be the food department.

Wal-Mart is one of a handful of retailers along the Gulf Coast that have tailored their inventory to meet the basic needs of its hurricane-weary customers, stocking its shelves with large quantities of hardware, appliances, no-frills clothes, dry food and other post-disaster products.

The new store in Waveland is a prototype for Wal-Mart, which had 120 stores in Louisiana and Mississippi that were closed by Katrina. Most reopened quickly, but seven stores remain closed. ...

Waveland's "Wal-Mart Express" is roughly one-third of the size of the original 205,800-square-foot "Supercenter." Parts of the old store that remain under construction are sealed off by dustproof walls.

Store manager Ray Cox said his inventory will change as residents go from cleaning up their homes to rebuilding them.

"It's quick, it's easy and we can change on the fly," he said.

While Wal-Mart leads, others stand in the way

Throughout this devastating hurricane season, Wal-Mart has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to adapt to new business conditions in order to ensure that its customers have the access to affordable goods that they have come to expect.

Meanwhile, the company's detractors have stepped up their campaign to prevent it from doing the work it does so well. Lately, Wal-Mart Watch has been keeping itself busy trafficking in stolen company documents and running ridiculous radio spots. They've even gone so far as to enlist preachers to deliver sermons on the evils of Wal-Mart.

One religious group that has been heavily involved in the anti-Wal-Mart silliness is the United Church of Christ. The UCC would do well to tread a little more lightly. For example, while it's nice that the UCC is working to raise $3 million for hurricane relief efforts, that is a paltry sum compared to what Wal-Mart is providing. The company's contributions to Katrina relief include $17 million in cash and $3 million in merchandise and in-kind donations.

Its critics need to face the facts. Wal-Mart has proven itself to be one of the nation's most effective disaster-relief organizations, and it has done more to alleviate poverty in America than most liberal do-gooders have ever dreamed of. If they are truly interested in "progress," they'd be better off going to work for Wal-Mart rather than subjecting it to a constant barrage of unfair criticism.