Protesters Heckle Wal-Mart Speaker

Protesters, some carrying union placards, many hoisting "mean smiley face" signs, tried to drown out a presentation by Mike Duke, president and chief executive officer, Wal-Mart Stores.

NEW YORK — Protesters, some carrying union placards, many hoisting "mean smiley face" signs, tried to drown out a presentation here today by Mike Duke, president and chief executive officer, Wal-Mart Stores [3].

Duke was about 25 minutes into his presentation about the company, the economy and other issues when a crowd assembled outside the windowed enclosure of the Bryant Park Grill and began chanting, "Wal-Mart cheats, Wal-Mart hates, Wal-Mart discriminates."

The crowd grew to an estimated few score protesters, who were joined by a few drummers and trumpet-players. Duke ignored the commotion, and the crowd dispersed after about half an hour. The "Viewpoints Executive Breakfast" meeting was hosted by the Wall Street Journal.

In his presentation, Duke said he believes Wal-Mart's core customer is under even more pressure than a year ago, as evidenced by spending trends in the stores, and exacerbated by rising gas prices.

"When they pay more money for gas, they have less money for discretionary spending," he said. "That's the way the math works."

He also said that as technology becomes more widely available to consumers, they are making more informed pricing decisions.

"Customers are communicating with each other, and sharing information about where they spend money and what they buy, and that's a dynamic area that's changed in the last few years," he said.