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.