Smal-Mart

It's good news that before America goes wall-to-Wal-Mart, the late Sam Walton's innovative firm is trying to reinvent the neighborhood convenience store.

In case you missed it, the management of the hugely successful megastore chain recently announced plans to experiment with small local stores.

Opponents may complain that's just stealing the franchise of hundreds of mom-and-pop stores squeezed out by the efficiently-run biggies. But it's in line with Sam Walton's attention to detail, and to courteously serving the public's needs.

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What's particularly interesting about this swerve toward "small is beautiful" is that it may represent a trend more mega-firms should pay attention to before impersonal bigness alienates their customers.

We've noted with interest that in recent years several savvy regional banks have made a point of trying to disguise their bigness. How? By instructing their branch managers to act like the small town banks of fond memory. They've encouraged their human tellers to get to know customers by name. They've dispensed donut holes and hot beverages, and provided games for children.

In a world of more and more mergers, and remote corporate headquarters, the way to mom and pop's heart may lie in acting more like a local mom-and-pop storefront.

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