The Wal-Mart Puzzle

‘Given the economic headwinds, one would think that a retailer catering to lower-end consumers would be doubly slammed. As the subprime-mortage mess shows, people at the bottom of the income ladder are struggling. And as for the retail sector generally, don’t ask. Retail sales have been sluggish in recent months, and national chains are shutting down stores by the dozen. From Nordstrom down to Target, fourth-quarter profits have been disappointing.

‘Which brings us to the mystery of Wal-Mart. The nation’s largest retailer, which caters to working-class customers, seems to have something of a sweet spot.’

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