Give me a W! Wal-Mart cheers a good year

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There's a lot of singing, dancing and cheering going on in Arkansas today.

Wal-Mart's hosting its annual shareholder meeting. The retailer kicked off the event early this morning in the Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas.

With celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Michael Jordan, Paulina Rubio and host Ben Stiller, this is no stuffy meeting for number crunchers. There's even a house band providing a musical score, if you will, to which management will tout financial results and tell the world what it plans for the coming year. More stores, more jobs, more big name brands and more returns to investors.

The PR machine has been in high gear all week. Lets review:

The opening of Wal-Mart's first store in India last week. A club store that can only sell to commercial businesses in partnership with Bharti Enterprise, as dictated by local restrictions against foreign retailers. Yesterday, Wal-Mart told reporters it would be adding 22,000 jobs. That's less than last year but it's still growth. How many businesses can say that?
On Wednesday, it announced the new Miley Cyrus apparel line, a partnership with actual fashion house Max Azria. This gives Wal-Mart a huge celebrity brand in childrens and teen apparel with a fashion edge. Take that Target.

There are expanded electronics and home departments offering brands with more cache, such as Sony, Samsung and the Better Homes and Gardens line of home goods. All to be displayed in newly remodeled stores, with less clutter and lower shelves for better sight lines. There's even a new push for diversity to help put more women and minorities in leadership positions.

But the big questions facing management today will swirl around Wal-Mart's ability to hang on to these supposedly upscale consumers. If these people think shopping at Wal-Mart is slumming, how quickly will they run back to Bloomingdales and Target once the economy brightens?

And if any loyal Wal-Mart shoppers out there want to discuss how they feel about rich people who consider buying laundry detergent or milk at Wal-Mart slumming, feel free.
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