A Nimble Giant

Wal-Mart is famous for being tight-lipped about its inner workings, but there’s a fascinating blow-by-blow account in the NYT today of how the world’s largest retailer responded to disappointing sales on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year. What’s remarkable is how quickly this enormous organization moved. Make no mistake, Wal-Mart can dance.

Within a couple of hours, Michael Duke, the president of Wal-Mart, had gotten messages on his Blackberry that sales were off at stores around the country. He brainstormed with execs and store managers about which products to mark down. A team met over the weekend to finalize the list and contact suppliers. On Tuesday, stores nationwide offered the new prices. On Thursday, Wal-Mart broadcast a video for its stores suggesting new displays. The next day, the displays were up, and a new ad campaign was underway. On Saturday, the company conducted a meeting with 500 employees asking for more ideas — and acted on 21 of their recommendations.

The result? The retailer expects December sales to be up three percent. Although it’s not the holiday season it had initially hoped for, it represents a heck of a comeback.

So how’d your company do? Any good holiday rescue stories to share?

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