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Wal-Mart is the largest consumer chain store in the United States and it has remained the most influential business enterprise to both the American politics and religion ever since its foundation. The consumer statistics show that one out of every five American women shops at the store (Moreton1), thus making it one of the most profitable businesses in the United States.
Most evangelical Christians shop at Wal-Mart as the store has products designed for Christian shoppers and this aspect paints it as a good avenue for getting in touch with fellow believers. Ralph Reed, a politician, once noted, “If you want to reach the Christian population on Sunday, you do it from the church, pulpit…on Saturday, you do it in Wal-Mart” (Moreton 1). Ralph Reed made these deliberate and boyish comments to emphasize the strong connection between Wal-Mart and Christian shoppers (Moreton 1).
Wal-Mart has reconciled the demands of conservative free enterprise with evangelical Christians in many ways, which are constituted in its business strategies that paint it as more of a service-to-people enterprise as opposed to a profit-making entity. In addition, the business has pleased the evangelical conservatives by taking care of social elements, which were seemingly neglected among many other strategies.
Wal-Mart: The Shoppers’ Choice Store
Wal-Mart is often referred to as the shoppers’ choice store due to its ability to bring together people of different calibers under one roof by incorporating business strategies that attract each of the social groupings in society. It is the oldest chain store in the United States and it managed to expand the market coverage as a monopoly enterprise under the authority of its founder, Sam Walton.
The store targeted both low and high-income earners in the country, which enabled it to attain a high growth rate even when the country’s economy was undergoing recession as customers had trust in the business.
In addition, politics and religious virtues have also been accommodated in the Wal-Mart business strategy whereby the store managers are nonpartisan, and thus they give room for both republican and conservative politics to take course within the business premises. However, the chain store offers good political environment for the conservatives as most evangelical Christians are conservatives, and Wal-Mart is the shop of their preference.
Whenever an American citizen thinks of the Wal-Mart chain store in the neighborhood, the most common range of images likely to ring in the mind include a wide variety of inexpensive merchandise, evangelical family values, economic mightiness, camping sites at the parking lots, wedding grounds at the chains’ lawns, and gardens and many other sort of products (Moreto 91).
In other words, Wal-Mart has all manner of outfits, and thus it qualifies as the people’s choice. In her book “To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise”, Bethany Moreton analyses the influence of Wal-Mart to evangelical Christianity and free market consumerism within the social, political, and economic contexts of the twentieth century.
Since the foundation of Wal-Mart, the chain store has attained unprecedented growth rate in unclear circumstances ranging from achieving corporate success in regions well known for their hostile residents to illegal government subsidies and unfair tax exemptions.
These allegations do not have either legal basis or evident truths, but Moreton writes on the Wal-Mart growth as being a product of “one common denominator…was the heavy public supports that attracted Wal-Mart to town. Private colleges, public universities, military installations, federally funded artificial lakes, and state institutions… and public hospitals appeared over and over in the publicity provided by the towns of Wal-Mart country”(38).
Hence, the growth was more of a prudent business strategy such as identification of new market opportunities rather than unfair assistance from the government. In addition, Moreton says that after the World War II, the government of the United States played a crucial role in enhancing economic growth in the country through the establishment of federal institutions in the Sun Belt states, which provided business opportunities to consumer business institutions such as Wal-Mart (39).
In addition, since the inception Wal-Mart, the store has been in a position to offer political identities to customers by making them feel that it preserves the endangered political and social elements (Moreton 41).
All through the twentieth century, the chain store increased its coverage to the rural, white, and evangelical cultures through strategies that attracted each group to the business. For instance, it used some instruments such as country music, evangelical worship concerts, in-store Christmas devotional music, and other elements designed to attract various potential customer groups to the store.
For instance, Moreton writes, “Wal-Mart was a well-known source of specifically Christian products, including books, music, movies, magazines, and many other products deemed family-safe. Ironically, given its capacity to purchase in vast quantities and thus at the lowest possible prices” (90). Moreover, numerous independent Christian stores closed down, as they were not in a position to rival competitively against Wal-Mart’s bottom-priced Christian products.
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In addition, Wal-Mart “was a well-known source of specifically Christian products including books, music, movies, magazines, and many other products, which stood out as family friendly” (91). The aforementioned elements underscore the view that Wal-Mart did not use underhand tactics to carry out its business. On the contrary, the chain store used business strategies to cut its niche in the competitive market environment, and in the process, it managed to edge out most competitors as stated before.
According to Moreton, the economic victory of Wal-Mart is attributed to its unique business strategies that enabled the store to recast both employments in retail service and Christian virtues, which made customers view the store as of service to others (123). Moreton also observes that the store does not deal with great luxurious merchandise, but rather humble products for the family, which allow customers to save more for their families (77).
In addition, she argues that economic activities in the United States shifted from heavy industrial activities to service industries after the World War II, which could have influenced Wal-Mart to assume service business strategies in order to increase market coverage in the country (Moreton 113).
The service business is more likely to accommodate both social and political aspects of human life than other forms of businesses as Christian virtues are based on service to others whereas politics are based on opinions of humans in social and political aspects.
In order to for a business to meet the demands of conservative free enterprise, it needs to adhere to some crucial elements. First, the business should operate under unique strategies that are capable of attracting conservative customers. In the United States, conservatives are the most elusive customers that a business can attract as they hold on to strong virtues that more often a business will compromise its strategies in order to satisfy them.
Wal-Mart addressed the needs of conservatives by observing that family values needed protection from economic turbulences through creating a business where customers would shop and save money for the family. In addition, evangelical Christians needed merchandise that fits their beliefs in the business in order to develop a sense of appreciation. These two strategies enabled Wal-Mart to attract evangelical Christians while at the same time reconciling the demands of conservative enterprises.
Secondly, a business should consider the economic trends of the people in the country of operation in order to invest in products and services that are most needed in certain economic conditions. After the World War II, the United States gave up heavy industrial activities and started to import products that were hitherto produced in the country before the events of the war.
Prudent business people knew that economic activities were moving towards social economic activities, and thus Wal-Mart implemented business strategies that enabled it to attract low-income earners, who were oppressed in the eyes of the conservatives. In addition, Wal-Mart expanded its market coverage to seemingly hostile areas where it became of service to societies. This strategy helped the business to overcome competitors from the onset and it has enabled it to remain the most competitive entity in the industry.
Thirdly, Wal-Mart has remained nonpartisan ever since its foundation. This strategy has enabled it to attract customers belonging to nearly all social classes in the United States. The strategy has enabled the store to stock merchandise suitable for nearly all sorts of customers. Goods and services are available for nearly everybody within the store’s premises and this aspect has enabled the business to become the peoples’ shopping choice across the United States.
Although the chain store embraces service-oriented business strategy, some merchandise caters for the upper class and higher income-earning customers in some stores, which make Wal-Mart an all-inclusive store. This assertion implies that Wal-Mart is a service shopping center for low-income earners and at the same time, a shopping store of choice for high-income earners as it meets the demands of all people inclusively.
Wal-Mart reconciled the demands of conservative free enterprise with evangelical Christianity in various ways. First, the main business strategy in force aimed at increasing the market coverage, which could only be achieved by incorporating social values to attract potential customers.
Conservatives prefer businesses that take care of neglected issues in society, and thus Wal-Mart won them by allowing customers to save money for their families after shopping. Through this idea, it became a social enterprise- a chain store of service to people, hence reconciling both the demands of conservative free enterprise with evangelical Christianity. Secondly, the business increased its coverage to seemingly hostile areas and provided merchandise that the locals could afford.
Consequently, it achieved a vast growth rate as compared to its competitors, and thus managed to attract Christians who viewed it as of service to the people in those areas. Lastly, the ability to introduce attractive elements in the business targeting various customer groups also played a major role in enhancing the ability reconcile the demands of conservative enterprise and evangelical Christians.
Moreton, Bethany. To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.