Bentonville Is Open For Business

Washington Post: The hard-nosed retailing tactics of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have transformed communities across the country, but none more so than the one in its own back yard. Benton County, once a sedate backwater, is quickly morphing into a swanky oasis in the middle of the Ozarks.
Wal-Mart’s unchallenged dominance in American retailing–it now sells about 30 percent of many household consumables–has persuaded scores of suppliers to open satellite offices around its headquarters to ensure their products remain on the chain’s coveted shelves.
The result is an unprecedented migration of high-paid executives to the northwest corner of Arkansas — professionals from amenity-rich cities like New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami, who bring not only their six-figure salaries, but an appetite for Jaguars, sushi, pet day-care centers, Gucci shoes and Chanel sunglasses.
Wal-Mart has produced a fair share of millionaires, but Walton’s rigid code of humility — even top executives stay at a Holiday Inn when traveling on the company dime — remains deeply ingrained in the company’s culture, discouraging conspicuous consumption.
Wal-Mart’s suppliers, however, honor no such vow of modesty.
In Rogers, just north of Bentonville, nattily dressed executives from Kellogg Co. and Colgate-Palmolive Co. sip lattes and lunch on cold Thai salmon at the Market, a gourmet grocery store that offers sushi-making lessons. Up the street, at Murphy’s Jewelry, the latest Versace fashion show flickers on a flat-panel television and $100,000 necklaces glimmer from behind a glass case.
From 1990 to 2000, Benton County’s population jumped 57 percent, to 153,406 from 97,499, while the average household income rose to $40,281 from $26,021, according to census data.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.