Wal-Mart CEO says "fiscal cliff" affects U.S. shoppers
By Martinne Geller
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A large portion of American consumers now know about the "fiscal cliff" and a sizeable number of them expect the debate over it to curb their holiday spending, according to the chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
In the week before last month's U.S. presidential election, only 25 percent of its core U.S. shoppers knew what the term "fiscal cliff" meant, CEO Mike Duke told a gathering on Tuesday in New York.
"One week after the election it was up to 75 percent," said Duke, adding that 15 percent of those customers said the debate in Washington would affect what they spend for Christmas.
Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the United States and the world, polls its shoppers regularly.
The latest poll could bode poorly for retailers like Wal-Mart, which rely on the year-end holiday shopping season for an outsized portion of their annual revenue.
The "fiscal cliff" refers to the automatic steep tax hikes and spending cuts set for January 1 that the White House and members of Congress have been negotiating to avoid. Fears about the cliff stand to weaken consumer spending, which accounts for some two-thirds of U.S. economic activity and is already being hurt by lingering unemployment.
Duke's appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations attracted protesters, many of whom blasted the company's wages and labor practices. Criticism has increased since a factory fire in Bangladesh last month that killed 112 garment workers making clothes to be sold by retailers including Wal-Mart.
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