Yesterday, WWD reported that mega-box retailer/well-known host to the world's ugliest customers, Walmart, plans to invest $50 billion dollars in manufacturing in the U.S. over the next 10 years. Citing rising costs of labor in Asia due to the fact that workers in these countries are now becoming privy to the reality that slaving sway for 18 hours a day in exchange for a couple of Triscuits isn't exactly a great deal, Walmart's CEO Bill Simon said that the retailer has a "once in a generation opportunity to make a change through investment in [U.S.] manufacturing."
So, wow. $50 billion plus several million more in investments from some of Walmart's biggest suppliers of footwear and other stuff you buy while blackout drunk. Finally, we are witnessing a company that is truly committed to making a difference, sacrificing their short-term bottom line for long-term health, while also demonstrating true patriotism. Shit, I wanna rip my shirt off, paint a bald eagle on my chest and drape myself in an American flag A$AP Rocky style while running through a Walmart toy department right this very minute. Except I don't because it's all a big pile of bullshit.
Yes, $50 billion seems awesome at first. I mean, fuck, it's $50 billion—with a "B"— dollars. With that amount of money you could literally buy the entire NFL (valued at $35 Billion dollars in 2012 by Forbes). But then again, it's $50 billion dollars over a 10 year period, so, for starters, it's a slightly less awesome $5 billion a year. Now, I'm not scoffing at $5 billion like some sort of lunatic. But yo, Walmart, what again is this money actually going towards? As it turns out, most of it will go into automated manufacturing equipment that doesn't require human workers at all, which means only 1,200 new jobs will be created as a result of the $50 billi. For another NFL comparison, there are currently more players in the league than that. So, if you're someone looking for a manufacturing job in the U.S. because of Walmart's "big investment," just know that you've got a better chance of standing next to Tom Brady on the sideline this Sunday. You play wide receiver, don't you?
Obviously, Walmart is only slinging this big ass number around because they know how great it sounds to the average American. And, yeah, that's pretty much it. The "Made in USA" tag as a marketing ploy is something that as a fan of menswear I know about all too well, and it seems now that this hollow PR pitch is now starting to make its way to mass consumer goods, if it hasn't already. John Caramanica of the New York Times recently ethered Detroit-based watch makers Shinola for what he perceived to be a veneer of Americana and a heavy dose of faux patriotism. The bottom line is that this investment from Walmart is kind of a good start, but, like, not really. Like all of their decisions it's simply good business. Now, good business and what's good for the world don't have to be mutually exclusive, but do you really think Walmart would invest a nickel in American manufacturing if it didn't make sense from a marketing and eventual profit and loss perspective above everything else? Not a fucking chance.
What's saddest of all is that they're going to do it and people are going to talk about it and everyone is going to love it. People will walk into Walmart and see a "Made in USA" tags and banners and think that it's companies like them that are the answer to this great nation's economic problems. Listen, I'm not saying Wal-Mart is as evil as some people make them out to be. I mean, they already provide more than 2 million jobs opportunities and don't always have to be vilified for being really, really efficient within the current, if totally fucked, confines of American capitalism. But guys, if you're going to invest in the American people, then invest in the American people. Don't patronize them by parading around with a $50 billion dollar promise simply because some people in your marketing department told you that shit was on trend.