07 September, 2006

Wal-Mart Blogging

Tuesday I went to Wal-Mart for the first time in ages. I was only assaulted by one person in a motorised shopping cart. (You know how yesterday we talked about prejudice? That's one of my prejudices. I'm very annoyed by people in motorised carts unless they have a visibly broken leg or something. Otherwise my default position is to assume they are lazy and just want to be pushy.)

Overall, the experience wasn't too bad. I actually left without spending any money, though. The product we went in search of is not sold by the store and they don't special-order. That's one of the many downsides of the Bentonville Bully. If their buyer hasn't found a way to extort the product from the manufacturer and put it on the shelf, then you ain't gettin' it nohow. I was irritated, but also pleased to not give them any of my cash.

So we headed into the bright sunshine, and now a couple of days later I'm greeted by this headline.

Apparently Wal-Mart has sluggish sales. It's not uncommon for discounters to do less well in better economic times and most economic indicators show this is a "better" time. Retail sales are like a seesaw. When the big-box guys (Wal-Mart & Target) do better, the department stores (Macy's) do worse. And vice-versa. Been that way for years.

Naturally, though, Wal-Mart will not accept lower sales. Like Jabba The Hut, their girth has spread too vast and they must maintain it. So here's the plan.
Wal-Mart is custom-fitting its merchandise assortment to reflect each of six demographic groups -- African-Americans, the affluent, empty-nesters, Hispanics, suburbanites and rural residents, the newspaper said.


Check out that list! The affluent?!? When was the last time The Affluent wanted a 5 gallon jar of dill pickles? Maybe I'm missing something but I don't really see Wally World as the go-to for The Affluent. And of course, God forbid if you are The Affluent Hispanic or The Affluent African American. You don't get to pick and choose. You've got to either buy from the Gold-plated aisle or sort through whatever tacky Sino import a 27-year old Arkansan thinks a black or hispanic person wants. (Look! A little diary with a lock and key that plays the Mexican Hat Dance when you open it! For our Quincenara Line!)

I'm shaking my head here. Is Wal-Mart actually trying to drive sales by giving customers what they want? This strikes me as a "you can have any colour you want, as long as it's black" move.

10 Comments:

At 10:28 AM, September 07, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

Most economic analysises I've seen on the topic are citing high gas prices (not some great economy) as the reason for Walmart's failing sales.

 
At 10:45 AM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Well, 98% of info from here (i.e. the raw data) indicates a strong economy overall.

The reasons for Wal-Mart's flagging sales legion and include issues like too-rapid expansion into untested markets, strongarming too many suppliers thus undercutting their supplier base to their ultimate detriment, relying too heavily on imported goods from China, etc. Oil is part of it, but Oil Prices are the new bogeyman that companies everywhere are using in press releases to cover up their other, more critical mistakes.

But one retail truism that has been true for 20 years at least is the one I mentioned. In the times when Big Boxes thrive, Dept. Stores falter and vice versa. There are only so many consumer dollars to go around, and they reallocate within about 8% between the two paradigms of retail.

 
At 1:11 PM, September 07, 2006, Anonymous thehomelessguy said...

As for the affluent in Walmart - you betcha - the tightwads. I know of one millionare in nashville who not only shops walmart, but thrift stores as well.

on another subject:
In my serveral years experience in retail, I've learned that people will buy most anything you stick on the shelf.

It's kinda like the idea that if someone on tv said it, it must be true - people assume that things can't be said on tv unless they're true. Just for the fact a thing is sitting on a retail self, people see it as having some kind of legitimacy - that it belongs, or deserves to be there, and as such is worth buying. And they lay their money down.

 
At 1:25 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Yeah, I guess I know that rich people shop at Wal-Mart. But it would seem to me that they would want to shop there for the value and that things targeted toward The Affluent would be of less value.

As for people buying most stuff you put on the shelves, I should have sold my product to your stores. I can't count the number of pallets we had remaindered over the years.

 
At 2:25 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger grandefille said...

Harper's had a piece in the July issue about Wal-Mart's micromanagement of the free market -- creating a monopsony that allows it to dictate not only product pricing but product content to its vendors. It's here if you'd like to read it. I was just gobsmacked at the number of vendors who were forced into pricing items under their cost to keep the contract and went out of business soon after.

I quit shopping at Wally World years ago, when they pulled a t-shirt with Margaret (from the "Dennis the Menace" comic strip) saying "Someday a woman will be president!" after a customer "complained." Wal-Mart said the shirt's "message goes against Wal-Mart family values.”

I didn't notice them saying that, though, when Alice Walton ran over and killed a pedestrian (but was never charged) or when she was convicted for DUI. That's some interesting family values, right there.

We do still shop at Sam's, so we still suck, just not with quite as much force.

 
At 2:46 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Sonia said...

I hate walmart.

Nuff said :)

 
At 5:43 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger the tennessee dude said...

the "affluent" will shop at wal-mart but wouldn't be seen dead in k-mart...still don't get what your punch line means - sorry

 
At 5:56 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

"You can have any colour you want, just as long as it's black" is what Henry Ford said when trying to pitch one of his cars. The Model T? Can't remember which model.

It's kind of a famous little saying.

 
At 7:47 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

As someone with"invisable" disabilities, I have to speak up on this one.
Looking at me, one might think I can get by without handicapped parking sticker or using a motorized cart, etc. And indeed, a lot of the time I can and don't use them on the good days.
But when my rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ruptured discs, asthma and now diabetic neuropathy flare up, I promise you it's easier for someone with a broken leg to walk than it is for me when flared up. But,you won't see any visable sign of any of those illnesses.
A lot of folks have invisable disabilities. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't.
I try to do as much as possible on good days, but when I have a flare up, then I'm not cut any slack because someone always says," Hey--saw you at such and such and you looked fine," sending the message to disabled people to act disabled and not work on days they can work because if they do, on days they can't work, no one will believe they're too sick to work. It's a bad message.
So I do as much as I can on days that I can, and on bad days when I have severe trouble walking, I will use my handicapped sticker and use a cart, if needed.

 
At 9:59 PM, September 07, 2006, Blogger Patrick said...

There's an interesting point - what is Wal-Mart's pitch to "the affluent?" I doubt they'll be stocking Armani, Rolex and Beluga. It would be smart to target the value-conscious affluent with exclusive name brand. i.e. you can get a deal on a multi-pack of Kashi cereal or Science Diet dog food.

You might also go the route of stocking more exclusive makeup lines or adding services to the existing products like "WalMart House Painting" and "WalMart Lawn Care," kind of like Sears has done licensing their name to almost any home improvement company you can throw a stick at.

 

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