Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Yeah we totally didn't expect you to be condescending or anything

Slate looks at Wal-Mart's plans to go upscale and predictably treats the retailer like a total country dumbfuck. That's a shame because when you get past all the jokes, there are interesting issues here. Like is Wal-Mart's own CEO holding them back?

Or is Wal-Mart simply trying to upsell current shoppers? Hey, come in for diapers, stay for the organic vegetables. Target's success and Wal-Mart's own slumping sales indicate that shoppers like innovation. In which case, Wal-Mart may be adopting the Procter & Gamble strategy: "innovation must be designed to constantly 'up-scale"'consumer preferences....Selling clean and cavity-free teeth isn't as profitable as selling whiter teeth....This upscaling of consumer tastes can't be limited to just the most-affluent consumers." This is what gives P&G the nerve to sell an Olay face cream for $17.99.

So what's true for mass brands -- innovation is the only thing that sells -- could be true for mass retailers too. Maybe it's not such a stretch. If 7-Eleven can sell gourmet coffee or McDonalds can serve salads -- hell, if Michael Jackson can stop sleeping with little boys -- anything's possible. Even if people would rather make jokes about you.


SuzanH said...

I'm a WalMart hater of old, and I don't think that upselling is going to do much for their bottom line.

I think Target does better because it is a nicer (in cleanliness, in product, even in staff) store.

At least that's my experience as a shopper.

Irene Done said...

I love Target (love it!) and almost never shop at Wal-Mart. But I get tired of the old "Wal-Mart shoppers are hicks" trope. It's been done. Wal-Mart's success and failures are fascinating to me partly because they're so mammoth and spectacular. Whatever the result of their effort to upscale, it will be interesting to analyze and blog about. And that's the important thing, right -- that I have stuff to blog about? Right!

SuzanH said...

Yeah, you get hicks at Target, too. I just can't stand the general scumminess and apathy of WalMart. And that's gotta be top down, I'm thinking.

And you're right, the most important thing is that you have enough to blog about.