Business Case Studies, Managing in Troubled Times Case Study, Managing Reputation, Wal-Mart vs. Starbucks

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Managing in Troubled Times Case Study

Case Title:

Managing Reputation: Wal-Mart vs. Starbucks

Publication Year : 2006

Authors: Sushma & Sauvik Dhar

Industry: Retailing


Case Code: TRT0027

Teaching Note: Available

Structured Assignment: Not Available

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Wal-Mart, the retailing giant, has always been the target of critics. The company has been criticised for its approach towards its employees, communities and the small retailers. It has been accused of paying low wages to its employees, discriminating against women employees by paying them less wages and denying them promotions, and also for forcing its employees to work overtime. To turn the image of the company around and to build a good corporate reputation, Wal-Mart started taking steps to build its reputation. On the other hand, Starbucks has from its very inception carefully built an image for itself as a company having a good reputation among its various stakeholders. However, the company also started facing increasing criticism because of its reluctance to allow its employees to form unions and for the company's alleged exploitation of coffee growers from developing countries. To counter these criticisms and to rebuild its good reputation the company has initiated several steps.

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To debate on the veracity of various criticisms levelled against Wal-Mart
  • To delve into Wal-Mart's responses to rebuild its reputation and whether the steps taken would remove the veils
  • To understand as to why Starbucks since its inception given great importance to building a good reputation for the company
  • To discuss the factors that resulted in Starbucks' loss of reputation and the steps the company has taken to rebuild its reputation
  • To discuss the growing importance of good corporate reputation.

Keywords : Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Corporate reputation, Managing reputation, Employee relations, Public relations strategy, Howard Schultz, Unions, Brands & Branding Case Study, Discriminations, Customer service, Unfair labour practices


  • Wal-Mart and Starbucks: Profiles
  • Managing Reputation: The Wal-Mart Way
  • Managing Reputation: The Starbucks Way
  • Managing Reputation: The New Thinking

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