Wal-Mart’s Battered Reputation

Wal-Mart yesterday outlined some plans to improve its employee health care benefits. The move comes at a time when the big-box retailer has clearly been bruised by a torrent of name-calling from labor groups, filmmakers, and other vocal critics in recent years. The most recent indication: The store tumbled from number four to number 12 in Fortune magazine’s annual corporate survey of America’s Most Admired Companies, released this week. That continues a veritable freefall from the number one spot in both 2003 and 2004, a time when the list included only the top 10.

General Electric climbed back into the top spot in Fortune’s reputation survey this year. Also moving up were FedEx (No. 2), Procter & Gamble (No. 4), and Johnson & Johnson (No. 6).

Another big name dropping on Fortune’s list was Dell — last year’s No. 1 — another bottom-line obsessed company, which fell to No. 8 this year on missed earnings targets and a multi-million write-off of botched products.