Wal-Mart Takes a Hit: Retailer’s ‘Buy America’ Campaign Shaken by NBC News Program

CHICAGO – Wal-Mart Stores is still evaluating how to respond in the wake of its first serious image lambasting at the hands of NBC late last month.
NBC’s news program Dateline: NBC devoted more than half of its Dec. 22 hour-long program on an investigative piece charging that Wal-Mart imports a number of its private-label clothes while playing up its ambitious ‘Buy America’ campaign.
Wal-Mart described the show as ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading,’ and claims that it has kept the ratio of imports at about 6% since the retailer instituted its Buy America program in 1985. NBC claimed that Wal-Mart’s imports were 8,000 times more than before the launch of the program.
Nevertheless, NBC’s allegations dealt the usually squeaky-clean Wal-Mart a serious blow to one of the very roots of its success . . . its Buy America program, created with the help of its ad agency Bernstein-Rein/Kansas City.
It could not be determined the exact response Wal-Mart is considering. Officials from Bernstein-Rein would not comment, and a spokesperson from Wal-Mart would only say the company is still evaluating its options. But sources say the company will evaluate everything from legal action to clarifying or pulling its Buy America program, but will likely wait until after the first of the year to determine how much damage the program caused.
Already, a few of Wal-Mart’s U.S. manufacturers banded together to run full-page ads in major newspapers backing Wal-Mart’s Buy America policy.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)