Wal-Mart To Drop One-Size-Fits-All Approach: WSJ

Reuters, September 7, 2006

New York—Wal-Mart Stores Inc. , the world’s biggest retailer, is trying to boost sluggish sales gains by dropping its one-size-fits-all approach to retailing, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Instead of stocking mostly the same products, the retailer is custom-fitting its merchandise to appeal to demographic groups, the Journal said.

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.

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Wal-Mart’s attempt to divide its roughly 3,400 U.S. stores into six different models is a big shift for a company that grew on the strength of standardization, The Journal said.

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Evergreen Park, Ill.—When Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recently opened a new store here with a heavily African-American clientele, it stocked the men’s apparel section with an exclusive line of clothes featuring baggy jeans and trendy sports jackets, made the department 30% larger than at typical stores and moved it to the front corner.

To appeal to affluent shoppers in Plano, Texas, Wal-Mart staffed the new store there with consumer-electronics specialists called “know-it-alls.” And it geared the sporting-goods section toward children, on the theory that well-heeled adults tend to buy their tennis and golf gear at country clubs, not discount . . .

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