Walmart falls in the middle of most admired, but does it matter?

Fortune is out with its list of the “50 Most Admired Companies,” and Walmart landed at number 24, which is only a big deal if you buy into the notion espoused by those who compiled the list that it is the definitive report card on corporate reputations.

It is not, at least as far as retailers are concerned for the simple reason the methodology doesn’t take into account the views of shoppers whose perceptions of retail companies matter far more than the folks Fortune surveyed to arrive at their most admired ranking.

Fortune’s survey is based on responses from 3,855 executives, directors, and securities analysts who had responded to industry surveys to select the 10 companies they admired most. They chose from a list made up of the companies that ranked in the top 25% in last year’s surveys, plus those that finished in the top 20% of their industry. Anyone could vote for any company in any industry, according to a description of the methodology provided by Fortune. The publication’s survey partner started with approximately 1,400 companies and then sorted those by 58 industries and selected the 15 largest for each international industry and the 10 largest for each U.S. industry. A total of 698 companies from 32 countries were surveyed.

Those who were surveyed were asked to look at what were determined to be such key attributes of reputation as innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment, quality of products and services and global competitiveness. Kind of interesting that Target ranked second on global competitiveness among the general merchandise retail segment since it doesn’t yet operate international stores.

It all sounds a little convoluted, and ultimately is irrelevant as far as retailers are concerned because the best measure of reputation in any segment of the service economy is the number of people coming through the door and how much money they spend per visit. Being included on a “most admired” list is a welcome accolade for any company and it beats the alternative, but such inclusion and ranking ultimately matters little to the performance of Walmart’s business or that of any of the other retailers (Costco, 20th; Nordstrom, 21st; Target, 25; Whole Foods, 28th) who made the cut.


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