Wal-mart and Dark Matter

リンク: Wal-mart and Dark Matter.

Inadvertently, Brad Setser seems to have given me a very good example of dark matter. In a recent post, he wrote

Super-efficient big box retailing may increase overall US productivity, but big box retailers like Walmart are not exactly a big source of export revenues.

Maybe I am discounting Walmart's intangible exports from its non-US operations ... but I sort of suspect Walmart's intangible exports they are quite small relative to Walmart's tangible import bill.

A couple of points. First, Wal-mart is perhaps the single largest creator of intangibles or dark matter in the U.S. economy. Consider this 2002 study from the McKinsey management consulting firm:

retail-labor productivity growth more than tripled after 1995, contributing roughly one-quarter of the national productivity acceleration of 1995–99. The reason can be explained in just two syllables: Wal-Mart, whose operational innovations—including the "big-box" format, "everyday low prices," electronic data interchange with suppliers, and economies of scale in warehouses—forced competitors to adapt.

Wal-mart became one of the largest companies and feared competitors in the U.S., not because of its spending on plant and equipment, but because of its “operational innovations”—that is, its business know-how. These sorts of intangible investments are not counted in GDP, but they created a retail behemoth.

Now Wal-mart is buying up lots of stores overseas, as well as opening up new ones. . In December alone it bought up 545 stores in Japan and Brazil (in Japan it was Seiyu Ltd, a chain with 405 stores).

In 2005 its international sales came to $63 billion, making the international division by itself one of the largest retailers in the world. (Target, the second largest retailer in the U.S., had $53 billion in global sales in 2005).

Now, what is it going to do with all those new stores? Obviously—apply the business knowhow which made Wal-mart such a powerful and productive competitor in the U.S. This business know-how, altough intangible, is very real and very potent. Just ask all of the retailers that have run up against Wal-mart.

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that adding the Wal-mart business know-how gives all of its overseas stores a faster productivity growth rate, indefinitely. Then it’s not just current profits which are increased, but future profits as well, as the result of transferring the Wal-mart “secret sauce” from the U.S. to Japan or Brazil, say.

How should we book this transfer of business knowhow from Bentonville, Arkansas, home of Wal-mart, to say Tokyo? Conventional statistics would say that we wouldn’t book it as exports, but rather just pick it up as increased profits overseas.

I don’t buy the conventional view, though. I reason this way. Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose that in a parallel universe the secret reason for Wal-mart’s higher productivity was a special very expensive “thought-ray” machine, manufactured in a nondescript building in Bentonville, Arkansas. (picture below). Each machine costs $10 million to build.


Each Wal-mart store has one of these machines installed, which increases the productivity of Wal-mart’s workers by 20% as soon as it is turned on.

Now let’s suppose that Wal-mart buys a store in Tokyo, and ships one of its thought-ray machines from Arkansas. The productivity and profits of the store immediately go up by 20%.

Clearly the trade statistics would book the transfer of the thought-ray machine as an export of $10 million, followed by the increase in overseas profitability.

Why don’t we count the transfer of Wal-mart’s business knowhow the same way?


 2)Yahoo! JAPANのGoogle


本書を既に読まれた方なら、あれっ? と感じられるかもしれません。それも当然、最初の2つは本書からの引用ですが(それぞれpp13,14、p106)、最後のもののソースは別です。何からの引用かといえば、山形浩生さんの「ネットワークのオプション価値」からです。その初出は1999年1月発刊の別冊宝島「ネット社会は心の魔窟」とのこと、実に7年前になりますが、その時点で既に本書の重要なコンセプトを喝破しています。





インタービュー 領空侵犯 NHKは中国に負ける 国際放送、ニュースに集中を 東京大学大学院教授 伊藤隆敏



RTC Vol.10 『ウェブ進化論』 −これから始まる本当の大変化とは?
日時: 3月22日(水)19:30〜21:30
場所: 千代田区大手町2-2-2 アーバンネット大手町ビル20F
    地図はこちら (地下鉄大手町駅A5番出口から直結)


Some responded to yesterday's news of a settlement in the patent dispute between Research In Motion and NTP with a huge sigh of relief. After all, it means they can live without fear that their beloved BlackBerry might go dark.
Others, however, were disappointed with the oucome, and see the $612.5 million check RIM will have to write NTP as intellectual extortion that is of little benefit to anyone but investors who play the patent game.
But bloggers were united on one thing: Finally, the dispute is over, and, as one reader wrote in response to our "just in" blog about the news, "Can we stop hearing about it now...Let's give it a rest, shall we?"