July 21, 2009: On May 14, Wal-Mart released its first-quarter financials for 2009 and announced that despite the recession -- or, perhaps, because of it -- business was booming. Shoppers in search of cheaper products had been flocking to its stores: A full 17 percent of its customers during the quarter were first-timers. The company had been able to exploit the downturn by reducing its legendarily bare-bones distribution expenses by an additional 5 percent. In keeping with its practice of compelling its manufacturers, shippers, truckers, and warehouses to continually cut costs, Wal-Mart had been able to "sweat the assets" in its distribution network more than usual, said Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of the company's U.S. division.
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