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The Friday Wire: Convenience, Clintons and housing contracts

An amazing interest in Wal-Mart’s push for convenience, money for ‘Bags for Books,’ more Clinton disclosures and a talking baby are part of the Northwest Arkansas Friday Wire for March 21.

NOTES & ANALYSIS
• Crazy for convenience
Apparently, size does matter.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. unveiled its new convenience store – Walmart to Go – format this week and judging by the media and retail industry reaction it seemed that Wal-Mart announced it was selling dimes for 5 cents.

This little (relatively speaking) 5,000-square-foot format now open in Bentonville just a short Ford pickup drive from the corporate headquarters is Wal-Mart’s effort to capture more of the $415 billion “quick-trip” market consumers make between their big grocery and shopping runs.

Traffic on The City Wire from our coverage of the new format was unreal, and about more than 10 times the traffic from the recent news of a new CEO for the world’s largest retailer. We offer three basic reasons that incredible attention was given to the opening of what is essentially nothing more than a convenience store.
• The retail industry is convinced Wal-Mart is serious about capturing market share through smaller format stores;
• Smaller format store companies – Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc. – are concerned that Wal-Mart is serious about the small-format move; and
• Regional convenience store companies and their suppliers are worried that this move by Wal-Mart could put them out of business.

The retail sector can be fickle, but if Wal-Mart decides to focus its economic power on this new format, the Walmart to Go concept could be Here to Stay.

ICYMI
Following are a few stories posted this week on The City Wire that we hope you didn’t miss. But in case you missed it ...

Gaming software lessons
There’s hardly a single minute of downtime in a busy Walmart distribution center (DC), so the the three minutes it takes to recharge a forklift battery is not wasted because the retail giant works with Waterloo, Ontario-based Axonify to reinforce safety education through a gaming application.

Trucking exec money
Top executives at Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services enjoyed big compensation boosts in 2013, with CEO John Roberts III posting an almost 20% gain in base pay, stock awards and other benefits.

Minimum wage support
Arkansas Economic Development Commission director Grant Tennille says he’s supportive of efforts to raise the state minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, calling it a “jobs creator.”

NUMBERS ON THE WIRE
$78.58 million: Value of home sales in Benton and Washington counties during January and February, ahead of the $73.17 million during the same period of 2013.

60: Consecutive months that the Arkansas jobless rate has been at or above 7%. The January rate was 7.3%.

$15,000: Fundraising goal for the Northwest Arkansas Bags for Books event, which supports a literacy program by the United Way of Northwest Arkansas through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

OUTSIDE THE WIRE
More Clinton disclosures
President Barack Obama's White House has moved to extend the review of roughly 8,000 pages of Clinton White House documents withheld under confidentiality provisions which expired early last year, according to a statement issued by the National Archives.

Have we heard the last of the E-Trade talking baby?
Digital discount broker E*Trade Financial Corp on Thursday bid farewell to the precocious baby who starred in the television commercials advertising its trading platform for the last seven years.

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Why people bet on the favorite
Everybody likes to cheer for the underdog, but hardly anyone bets on the underdog to win. We tend to put our money on the favorite most of the time. In fact, we bet on the favorite far more frequently than we should. To understand why, you have to understand some of the basic functions and malfunctions of human decision-making.

WORD ON THE WIRE
“Sam’s model was ‘Try it, fix it, then do it.’ he fostered a learning environment and back then we tried lots of ideas. Of course we were able to keep it quieter than they can today. ... The Wal-Mart culture has a low resistance to change and to stay relevant they are constantly testing and tweaking ideas to align with what customers want.”
– Andy Wilson, former executive officer with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., about the corporate culture at the retailer with respect to innovation

“We wrote 18 contracts in February. I had one weekend that although I didn’t even leave my house due to the snow and ice and I still sold three homes. People that relocate to our area don’t stop looking because of the weather and luckily I have a lot of listings that these buyers have been looking at online for several weeks prior to their house hunting trip.”
– Nicky Dou, a Realtor with Keller Williams in Bentonville, about the impact of winter weather on home sales in Northwest Arkansas

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