Friday, September 16, 2005

Wal-Mart's stock falls to near 5 year lows

The last time Wal-Mart stock traded under $44 per share was October 30, 2000.

This weakness in the stock price is quite interesting to me because for a long time (i.e. for most of its history as a public company) Wal-Mart employees have been able to build a significant amount of wealth for themselves simply by owning the stock. This phenomenon of employees building wealth for themselves separate from their low salaries has been not only spectacular, it has probably in many ways kept a lid on discontent about the salary levels. Why complain about making $20,000 a year when you've got a retirement nest egg ballooning at $400,000 or so after years of service? [See examples from Sam Walton's autobiography of regular employees building this kind of wealth.]

The lack of ability of regular employees to build wealth from ownership of Wal-Mart stock over the last five to six years could have an interesting effect on the background noise of grumbling over salaries.

To be fair here, Wal-Mart went through a period of zero price appreciation in their stock from 1993 to 1997. That period of zero price appreciation, though, lasted 4 years.

We are currently in about a 6 year stretch of overall zero price appreciation dating back to August of 1999.

How odd that would be if the lack of stock price appreciation over the last six years actually caused Wal-Mart to suffer on an operating cost basis (i.e. having to raise salaries). That's just a bizarre phenomenon, more commonplace I would imagine in a place like Silicon Valley.


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