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Walmart goes up-market, but only because "middle income" earners are sliding down

Yahoo Finance (of all places), "The Exchange" blog:

Walmart, though known as a discounter, may be too expensive for millions of shoppers finding themselves more pinched — not less — as the pace of the so-called recovery accelerates. “Their consumer is shifting downward,” says Joe Brusuelas, chief economist for financial-data firm Bloomberg LP. “The competition for Walmart is changing. It’s now dollar stores.”

Ouch.

What’s alarming for retailers such as Walmart is the sharp drop in income in the middle tier of earners. In 2001, taxpayers earning $100,000 or less accounted for 60% of total income; in 2011, they accounted for less than 50%. In basic terms, that means there are fewer middle-income families with money to spend, leaving retailers — and the overall economy — more dependent on a smaller group of high-income consumers.

Walmart will survive, and perhaps adapt. Maybe it will chase shoppers downmarket, which would probably cut into profitability. Or it might go after wealthier shoppers, drifting away from its core business. It could also stay right where it is, doing no better than the mainstream Americans it has long catered to.

Yeah, and after all the localities gave Walmart tax breaks so they could suck all the vitality out of local businesses and ruin their downtowns. And after we all supplemented Walmart's craptastic wages with foodstamps and welfare. Well done, all.

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