Morning Brew - ☕ Hard bargain

How Walmart turned its reputation around.
November 11, 2022

Retail Brew

Hello. It’s Friday, but also Veteran’s Day. As we honor our military veterans across the country, don’t forget to check if your local stores, banks, or restaurants are open. Oh, and also if you or someone you know is or was an active military personnel, here are some deals to take advantage of.

In today’s edition:

—Andrew Adam Newman, Maeve Allsup



A photo of author Rick Wartzman sitting in a chair and the cover of his new book, Still Broke. Photo: John Huggins

Rick Wartzman is a journalist and business historian who in 2003, as the business editor of the Los Angeles Times, oversaw a critical series about Walmart’s part in American jobs moving offshore and the low wages it paid its workers. That story won the Pulitzer Prize. For his latest book, Wartzman interviewed Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and other Walmart executives about how Walmart transformed itself from a widely criticized company for its business practices and low pay two decades ago, to one that is widely admired for its sustainability policies and upping its starting pay today.

Still Broke: Walmart’s Remarkable Transformation and the Limits of Socially Conscious Capitalism will be published on November 15. Wartzman details the boldness of those leaders adopting green initiatives and raising pay. And while lauding both, as the title makes clear, he ultimately concludes that Walmart and other businesses fall short when it comes to paying workers a living wage.

Early in the book, you have this quote from a couple of commentators in 2008: “If you really—we mean, really—want to scare the locals next Halloween, here’s an early costume idea for you or your kids: Dress up as Walmart.” Who said this, and how emblematic was it of Walmart’s struggles with its reputation in the early 2000s?

It sounds like, “Oh my God, that must be some left-wing think tank or some union group!” No, these were economists at the Federal Reserve Bank who said this. And they were looking at just how much Walmart had come to represent lots of things that people thought were wrong with the economy.

Walmart was being vilified for all kinds of things at that point, everything from destroying the environment, to driving mom-and-pop businesses out of Main Streets across America, [to] driving jobs overseas and hurting American manufacturing. And for employing an army of low-paid workers who could not make ends meet, didn’t have adequate healthcare, and—as a result—ending up on food stamps and Medicaid and, in effect, [Walmart] had the taxpayers subsidizing their bottom line.

Keep reading here.—AAN



Offline is the new online

Looks like we’re in for a retail switcheroo! Online retail has reigned supreme over brick-and-mortar storefronts for the last several years. But leading retailers like Walmart and Target have begun leveraging their immense store fleets to generate ad revenue.

How?’s white paper on retail’s new media power has all the deets on how brick-and-mortar stores can rethink advertising, such as:

  • how retail media networks are promoting goods and services to hard-to-reach audiences
  • how retail media networks can track impressions
  • which metrics advertising partners can use to optimize offline ad campaigns will show you how to transform your retail store into a powerful advertising platform that can reach a diverse range of consumers and drive lasting marketing impressions.

Learn how to monetize your brick-and-mortar here.


’Tis the season

wrapped presents, credit cards, a shopping cart, and a laptop Francis Scialabba

PSA: It’s the holiday (shopping) season. That’s according to the National Retail Federation, which creates its annual holiday forecast based on the period between November 1 and December 31.

The retail trade organization shared a predominantly rosy outlook on the 2022 holiday season on November 3, predicting 6–8% growth despite high inflation and rising interest rates.

  • NRF president and CEO Matt Shay called 2022 “another historic year in retail.” Retail sales have grown every month since May 2020, including during the first nine months of 2022, Shay said.
  • NRF’s chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said prices for retail goods (excluding food, cars, and gas) are up between 4% and 5%, which is lower than the overall inflation rate of 8%.

With that backdrop in mind, here are a few key trends from the NRF predictions:

Omnichannel is king: The pandemic sped up the shift in consumer behavior toward blended commerce, as opposed to purely online or in-store, Shay said. That’s a good thing for retail, he added.

Savings and credit are fueling spending: Shay pointed to the socioeconomic divides between shoppers, with “robust” spending by higher-income households, and lower-income households impacted by the increased cost of everyday items.

Labor is still a hot topic: The retail job market is still tight, with 800,000 job openings at the end of September, Kleinhenz said. Retailers are looking to hire not only seasonal workers but also permanent ones, and are often competing with each other for labor. “It will be an ongoing challenge, not only for retailers, but certainly other industries,” he added.

Keep reading here.—MA



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Today’s top retail reads.

Home grown: The Chinese streetwear market is hot with international brand collaborations and global consumer interest driving the industry forward. (Business of Fashion)

Short-lived: Say goodbye to lightning-fast delivery; retailers are cutting back on speedy shipping to save fulfillment costs. (the Wall Street Journal)

Expert advice: DTC brands are looking to “gain the favor” of trade professionals, like interior designers and architects, to foster consumer trust. (Modern Retail)

Calling all marketers: You’re asked a lot of questions: Do podcast ads work? How did those brands get on Stranger Things? What social platforms should we advertise on? Thankfully, Marketing Brew can help with the answers—subscribe here.


Only 4 days left until the marketing event of the year!

Only  days left until the marketing event of the year!

Hi retail readers! We’re just four days away from the most action-packed marketing event of the year, but there’s still time to secure your ticket.

Incredible speakers from Magnolia Bakery, REI, Vans, and more will take to the stage to tackle the dizzying industry topics we love so dearly. Get 15% off your tickets using code RetailMarketers at checkout!

Take me to The Brief


  • Tapestry slashed its profit outlook for the year as China gets hit by another set of stringent lockdown measures.
  • Ordergroove raised $100 million in its latest funding round, which will enable the tech company to grow its team.
  • Ralph Lauren’s sales surpassed estimates as consumer demand remained steady.
  • KFC apologized after sending a “treat yourself” alert to customers in Germany as part of a “Kristallnacht promotion” on the anniversary of Nazi attacks on Jewish businesses in 1938.
  • Wendy’s new Frosty flavor—peppermint—is its first ever holiday-themed one.


Three of the stories below are real...and one is most definitely not. Can you spot the fake?

  1. Pepsi has partnered with Arby’s to debut a new soda flavor that smells and tastes like its iconic slow-roast beef sandwich.
  2. McDonald’s has introduced a grease-free gaming chair called McCrispy that comes with dedicated holders for fries and dips.
  3. A Philadelphia man ate 40 Rotisserie chickens in 40 days as part of a personal challenge.
  4. Vlasic has introduced a candle that looks and smells exactly like its jar of Original Dill Wholes.

Keep reading for the answer.


You know that would basically be carbonated and liquid roast beef, right?


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Written by Andrew Adam Newman and Maeve Allsup

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