Wal-Mart’s grand strategy of becoming more fashionable has fizzled and is being retooled.
Wal-Mart shoppers like its stores but don’t necessarily love them. Low-income shoppers, one of its three core groups, absolutely need the low prices. The two others aren’t buying enough: an aspirational middle-income group that likes the brand names, and a third group of regulars that has plenty of spending power but tends to cherry-pick the store without really shopping in it.
In its search for that shop-till-you drop formula, Wal-Mart is testing one prototype in the middle of Middle America–Elyria, Ohio. Castro-Wright strides into a very un-Wal-Mart-like area that features low, wood-veneer (actually recycled plastic) side counters where towels are displayed. You can actually see over the department, and the sight makes you want to linger; you’re not hemmed in by the usual 8-ft.-high (2.5 m) discount-store shelving crammed with merchandise. The assortment–the colors and styles–is broad and deep, even attractive. The prices are killer, natch, but it’s the look of the department that is designed to stop traffic and perhaps get a shopper to take a glimpse at that $200 Dyson vacuum cleaner nearby.
Time has a very interesting article on the challenges of Restoring Wal-Mart.