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Research Report by Jonathan Svilar

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Research Report: Wal-Mart


By Jonathan Svilar , Heart of Darkness Project Team





            Wal-Mart is an American corporation whose goal is to bring the lowest possible prices to its thousands of customers nationwide. Wal-Mart is best described as a leading department store chain whose revenue is generated by buying bulk goods and selling them at wholesale reduced prices to consumers. Their website http://www.walmart.com/ includes a large number of resources, including: online shopping, account information/creation, a large section about Wal-Mart and its policies and a constantly ticking counter “represent[ing] the amount of money Wal-Mart has saved American families” since the start of the year.





            Wal-Mart is one of the largest retailers in the United States. Wal-Mart’s facts webpage states that “net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008 were $106.269 billion, an increase of 8.3 percent over the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2007” which clearly means that Wal-Mart economic value is greater than that of small nations. Also on the same front page of the Wal-Mart Facts website is the revelation that Wal-Mart reported “record fourth quarter sales and earnings.” Wal-Mart manages to extend the functional aesthetic of the main shopping webpage to the second less traveled site. The overall effect is a clean and polished professional space that rivals that of every other corporate website in existence.



    Wal-Mart prides itself on being the best and the cheapest resource for families everywhere. On the “Introduction to Walmart.com” webpage (just off the front page) something that very much resembles a mission statement is listed which serves as a catalyst for the multitude of cards Wal-Mart plays in the retail world:


"The secret of successful retailing is to give your customers what they want. And really, if you think about it from your point of view as a customer, you want everything: a wide assortment of good-quality merchandise; the lowest possible prices; guaranteed satisfaction with what you buy; friendly, knowledgeable service; convenient hours; free parking; a pleasant shopping experience."


- Sam Walton




            The importance of the website for the largest department store in the world is fairly obvious, but in context of the Heart of Darkness Project its importance shifts to one of a functional model. While the Heart of Darkness Project will focus less on sales (as the product is more the farming of a resource than the sale of manufactured goods), Wal-Mart does symbolize the very powerful and very controversial force that the Heart of Darkness Project wishes to emulate with its own webpage design. The goal of the Heart of Darkness project is to elegantly lampoon the juggernauts of big business while simultaneously bringing to light the increasingly misleading activities that these corporations may be taking part in. On one hand, Wal-Mart is liberally generous with charities claiming that “with a focus on education, children and communities, Walmart charity contributes more than $5 a second every day of the year. In recent history cash donations through Wal Mart exceeded a record $170 million dollars. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, this makes Wal-Mart the largest giver in the country.” (Curiously the three different spellings of Wal-Mart is not a typo but is directly lifted from the site) Alternatively, Wal-Mart Watch has an entire page citing the negative impacts that Wal-Mart has on local economies, citing that the “University of California, 1999, studied grocery stores in California and found ‘The full economic impact of those lost wages and benefits throughout southern California could approach $2.8 billion per year.’” This is a powerful dichotomy that the Heart of Darkness Project will incorporate within the scope and limits of the project. There is a limited time in which the project can be finished, and as such, the project team will incorporate the dual nature of the Company from Heart of Darkness by creating a hacked page within the site thereby illustrating the anger and controversy involved in what would be a modern style ivory business. Notably, even the sites that feature negative aspects of the corporate juggernaut incorporate strong advertisement-like techniques. The front page of Wake Up WalMart’s website features a large blue image link promising a “shocking report” on Wal-Mart’s involvement with China. Whether or not they wish to acknowledge it, Wal-Mart has, in effect, provided a useful model for the anti-websites who are not entirely spoofing the corporate website effectively. By incorporating these advertising techniques, the sites are undermining their own effectiveness and credibility by lowering their standards to resemble something more like a tabloid website. In this way, Wal-Mart and its advertising and design techniques are having a direct effect on the business minded website template as a whole.


            In short, the Heart of Darkness Project will incorporate elements of the alleged controversies surrounding Wal-Mart and some of the aesthetic features of the Wal-Mart website which is increasingly serving as a model for the sales based website.



Resources for Further Study:


            Cited Pages:


Wake Up Wal-Mart. 2005. 21 February 2008 <http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/>.


Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart Charity. 21 February 2008 <http://www.walmartfacts.com/walmart-




Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart.com. 2008. 21 February 2008 <http://www.walmart.com/>.


Wal-Mart Watch. 2005. 21 February 2008





Additional Sources:


WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Prices. 21 February 2008






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