Wal-Mart's PR Brain Trust (WMT)

Wal-Mart has retained PR operation Edelman in another sign that the retailer is focusing on form over substance. The public relations firm is using employees who have helped in political campaigns to run something called “Candiate Wal-Mart”

Wal-Mart is guessing that if it improves its image with the public then sales might go up. Bad feelings about putting small retailers out of busness and pushing around employees must be the fall guy for the company’s dropping same-store sales.

The PR operation even helped turn the Wal-Mart launch of $4 prescriptions into a “we are bring down healthcare costs” campaign.

Now that The Wall Street Journal has”outed” Wal-Mart’s fancy campaign to win over the press and consumers, the troubling question arises as to whether people don’t shop at Wal-Mart because they don’t like the company or because they don’t think the stores have the products they want at the price they want.

Maybe if Wal-Mart would put the kind of effort into merchandising that it appears to be putting into burnishing its image the financial health of the company might actually improve.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.