Wal-Mart has more than its fair share of critics. The big box superstore has spread across the world quickly, knocking off smaller competitors in its path. But no matter what you think of its business tactics, low prices trump politics during a recession.
While nearly every other large American retailer suffered significant losses in the first months of 2009, Wal-Mart reported a 5.1 percent increase in profits, more than doubling Wall Street's expectations of 2.4 percent [source: Reeves].
Not surprisingly, dollar stores and thrift stores are also doing brisk business during the recession. The national chain Dollar General saw a 48 percent rise in earnings in the fourth quarter of 2008 and Goodwill stores reported a 7 percent increase in sales during the first eight months of 2008 [sources: Nashville Business Journal and Newsweek].
Overall, the "off price" sector is the only clothing retailer doing well during the global financial crisis. Earnings were up 27 percent to $29 billion in 2008 [source: O'Donnell].