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The definitive account of how a small Ozarks company upended the world of business and what that change means Wal-Mart, the world's largest company, roared out of the rural South to change the way business is done. Deploying computer-age technology, Reagan-era politics, and Protestant evangelism, Sam Walton's firm became a byword for cheap goods and low-paid workers, famed The definitive account of how a small Ozarks company upended the world of business and what that change means Wal-Mart, the world's largest company, roared out of the rural South to change the way business is done. Deploying computer-age technology, Reagan-era politics, and Protestant evangelism, Sam Walton's firm became a byword for cheap goods and low-paid workers, famed for the ruthless efficiency of its global network of stores and factories. But the revolution has gone further: Sam's proteges have created a new economic order which puts thousands of manufacturers, indeed whole regions, in thrall to a retail royalty. Like the Pennsylvania Railroad and General Motors in their heyday, Wal-Mart sets the commercial model for a huge swath of the global economy. In this lively, probing investigation, historian Nelson Lichtenstein deepens and expands our knowledge of the merchandising giant. He shows that Wal-Mart's rise was closely linked to the cultural and religious values of Bible Belt America as well as to the imperial politics, deregulatory economics, and laissez-faire globalization of Ronald Reagan and his heirs. He explains how the company's success has transformed American politics, and he anticipates a day of reckoning, when challenges to the Wal-Mart way, at home and abroad, are likely to change the far-flung empire. Insightful, original, and steeped in the culture of retail life, "The Retail Revolution" draws on first hand reporting from coastal China to rural Arkansas to give a fresh and necessary understanding of the phenomenon that has transformed international commerce.


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The definitive account of how a small Ozarks company upended the world of business and what that change means Wal-Mart, the world's largest company, roared out of the rural South to change the way business is done. Deploying computer-age technology, Reagan-era politics, and Protestant evangelism, Sam Walton's firm became a byword for cheap goods and low-paid workers, famed The definitive account of how a small Ozarks company upended the world of business and what that change means Wal-Mart, the world's largest company, roared out of the rural South to change the way business is done. Deploying computer-age technology, Reagan-era politics, and Protestant evangelism, Sam Walton's firm became a byword for cheap goods and low-paid workers, famed for the ruthless efficiency of its global network of stores and factories. But the revolution has gone further: Sam's proteges have created a new economic order which puts thousands of manufacturers, indeed whole regions, in thrall to a retail royalty. Like the Pennsylvania Railroad and General Motors in their heyday, Wal-Mart sets the commercial model for a huge swath of the global economy. In this lively, probing investigation, historian Nelson Lichtenstein deepens and expands our knowledge of the merchandising giant. He shows that Wal-Mart's rise was closely linked to the cultural and religious values of Bible Belt America as well as to the imperial politics, deregulatory economics, and laissez-faire globalization of Ronald Reagan and his heirs. He explains how the company's success has transformed American politics, and he anticipates a day of reckoning, when challenges to the Wal-Mart way, at home and abroad, are likely to change the far-flung empire. Insightful, original, and steeped in the culture of retail life, "The Retail Revolution" draws on first hand reporting from coastal China to rural Arkansas to give a fresh and necessary understanding of the phenomenon that has transformed international commerce.

30 review for The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The first section is the background on Sam Walton and all his innovations in retail. It was a little dry. Then, there are chapters on the anti-union stance, the factories in China, and the international spread of Wal-Mart, among others. It was interesting and informative, but not the most engaging. I kept thinking about the New Yorker and how they must have done a (much more interesting) profile on Walton and/or Wal-Mart.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    While this 2010 book on Wal-Mart doesn't getting a chance to consider Amazon and ecommerce's impact, it remains highly relevant and very insightful on the unprecedented rise of Wal-Mart via innovation, focus, supply chain, international expansion and targeting. The author, a UCSB professor, is highly critical of Wal-Mart's tough approach to unionization and worker benefits and suggests it hasn't necessarily led to a better run or more profitable chain. Yet, the book is not at all a hatchet job. While this 2010 book on Wal-Mart doesn't getting a chance to consider Amazon and ecommerce's impact, it remains highly relevant and very insightful on the unprecedented rise of Wal-Mart via innovation, focus, supply chain, international expansion and targeting. The author, a UCSB professor, is highly critical of Wal-Mart's tough approach to unionization and worker benefits and suggests it hasn't necessarily led to a better run or more profitable chain. Yet, the book is not at all a hatchet job. The detail provided on Wal-Mart's approach to all aspects of retail is impressive. The insight into the Chinese supply chain is especially valuable, as is the insight into Wal-Mart's Ozark roots. Sometimes, the years are juggled, and it is hard to differentiate what happened in 1978 from 1998. But overall, I think it is one of the best business books I've read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christina Quigley

    An extremely well-researched and eye-opening expose on the practices that led to Walmart's domination of the mass market retail industry as well as other giants such as Target, Kmart, etc. A must-read for business professionals and students who are forced to drink the Walmart Kool-Aid in business programs across the country.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bryce

    I believe that criticisms need to be not only substantiated, but also based on premises that are either established or understood. Based on that belief, I did not think this was a good book. The author cited criticisms of Wal-Mart about how they were anti-union or other supposed problems. But the author never took it to the next step of showing why being anti-union fulfilled his premise that Wal-Mart was bad. I, for one, was glad that Wal-Mart had so much success against the unions. The author t I believe that criticisms need to be not only substantiated, but also based on premises that are either established or understood. Based on that belief, I did not think this was a good book. The author cited criticisms of Wal-Mart about how they were anti-union or other supposed problems. But the author never took it to the next step of showing why being anti-union fulfilled his premise that Wal-Mart was bad. I, for one, was glad that Wal-Mart had so much success against the unions. The author talked about how Wal-mart has strange cheers and other quirks in their culture. But again, no harm was cited. So even though I picked up this book to get another perspective on Wal-Mart, I generally found this to be a poor one because it assumes too much about the reader's worldview- one I obviously don't share.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rj

    On the reading front I have been reading Nelson Lichtenstein's The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart created a brave new world of Business (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009). Lichtenstein a professor of history does a really good job of contextualing the rise of Wal-Mart and how their business practices fit into a larger history of retailing, economics and North America. I have read most of the books written about Wal-Mart, with most being either indictments or celebrations of the company. Licht On the reading front I have been reading Nelson Lichtenstein's The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart created a brave new world of Business (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009). Lichtenstein a professor of history does a really good job of contextualing the rise of Wal-Mart and how their business practices fit into a larger history of retailing, economics and North America. I have read most of the books written about Wal-Mart, with most being either indictments or celebrations of the company. Lichtenstein's book however is a balanced analysis of Wal-Mart's position in North America and the world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Cornell

    Fascinating presentation by this author on Fresh Air today. He seems very even-handed. Great sources of data. Says that, yes, Walmart does offer lower prices, but only on 20% of the things we buy. The other 80% --- health care, housing, transportation, eduction --- we can't buy there, so their lower prices have no overall effect on much of the economy. And their workers are hurt, because the low wages they offer make it very difficult for the workers to buy these necessities. Walmart has also el Fascinating presentation by this author on Fresh Air today. He seems very even-handed. Great sources of data. Says that, yes, Walmart does offer lower prices, but only on 20% of the things we buy. The other 80% --- health care, housing, transportation, eduction --- we can't buy there, so their lower prices have no overall effect on much of the economy. And their workers are hurt, because the low wages they offer make it very difficult for the workers to buy these necessities. Walmart has also eliminated Saturday as a day off, returning us to the workweek conditions of the 1920s.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Loved this book. Very interesting and I learned a lot. Would never/do never shop at Walmart but it was interesting to learn how they got their start, grew, and many of their evil tactics. The way they treat their labor has been terrible since the very beginning! An entertaining as well as educational read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    • This is a balanced history and a fair appraisal regarding Wal-Mart itself, the influence it has regarding all direct and indirect sectors of the retail industry, and the company's direct and indirect impact on the world in general. Want a better understanding of most things Wal-Mart?…This is the book to read… •

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zan

    I am a rich, over-educated, elitist, white person - so naturally I never shop at Walmart. After finishing this book, I can now articulate the baseless assumptions I hold against this retailer. [hint: They're not that base-less.]

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zachary

    an even-handed indictment of the retail monster that dominates our economy. the new definitive book on wal*mart

  11. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Dillon

    This finely researched book gave me even more reasons not to shop at Walmart.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Evan Thomas

    A decent history of Wal-Mart's innovation and impact on the global economy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Useful history/analysis of the Wal*Mart phenonemon, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    wow. worth the read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Yang

  16. 5 out of 5

    Trish

  17. 5 out of 5

    Thomas University Library

  18. 4 out of 5

    ralphwenge

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jaffe

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  22. 5 out of 5

    DanO

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lane

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Mercille

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alex Musicaendless

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gina

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Lanham

  29. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Jerviss

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