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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 21:57 GMT
Wal-Mart is labelled 'bad for US'
Wal-Mart store in New Jersey, United States
Wal-Mart acknowledges that many of its staff cannot afford healthcare
Retail giant Wal-Mart is "bad for America", according to a poll carried out on behalf of a group campaigning against the store.

The poll, conducted by Zogby for a union-led group called WakeUpWalMart, asked 1,012 people across the US about their attitudes to Wal-Mart.

Of the respondents, 59% said they agreed with the statement that "Wal-Mart is bad for America".

Wal-Mart retorted that its opponents were clutching at straws.

"This poll is another way for them to reach out for something to try to validate their efforts, because they don't have anything else to hang their hat on," a spokeswoman told Reuters.

Despite the clear majority on its "good or bad" question, the survey found other views were more mixed.

A third of respondents said that they were "very concerned" that the firm could be too powerful an economic force in the US, against 20% who said they were not concerned.

And while 33% said it was a retail monopoly, 35% said that it was not.

Stormy weather

The poll came as Wal-Mart, which has 3,700 US outlets and another 2,400 around the world, reported a rise in same-store sales of 4.3% in November.

The massive chain has run into publicity problems in recent months, including a huge class-action lawsuit which accuses it of discriminating against women over pay and promotions.

Zogby asked respondents which of these two statements, if any, they agreed with:
"I believe that Wal-Mart is bad for America. It may provide low prices, but these prices come with a high moral and economic cost for consumers."
"Wal-Mart is good for America. It provides low prices and saves consumers money every day."

It also faces criticism from groups such as WakeUpWalMart that it is damaging the environment - and that its famously low prices derive from rock-bottom wages and benefits.

Although Wal-Mart denies this kind of accusation, it has nonetheless recently declared its intention to become more environmentally friendly.

In a speech to analysts, chief executive Lee Scott said it hoped to cut energy use by 30% and improve the fuel efficiency of its delivery fleet.

Mr Scott also called for a rise in the minimum wage - stuck for almost a decade at $5.15 - although he said Wal-Mart itself did not need to raise pay, which averages $9.37 an hour.

"We can see first-hand at Wal-Mart how many of our customers are struggling to get by," he said.

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