Walmart Tries to Find Its Way Back


It’s one thing for a brand to recognize the error of its ways and attempt to return to what made people love it in the first place. But it’s quite another thing to complete the journey successfully.

Walmart, America’s largest retailer, is finding out that truth about branding these days. It is mired in its worst U.S. sales slump ever, kept there for now by the chain’s inability to return to its roots as a basic purveyor of value-priced merchandise after an ill-considered move upscale.[more]

Bill Simon, Wal-Mart corporate’s new U.S.-stores chief, told The Wall Street Journal that Walmart stores are returning to the Every Day Low Prices formula that traditionally powered its sales growth, and also restoring broader selection.

“I think we tried to stretch the brand a little too far,” Simon said.

In short, Walmart realized that its core customers – those Americans with household incomes between $30,000 and $70,000 a year – liked the feel of stores so full of attractively priced merchandise that it could barely be contained on the shelves. A couple of years ago, under Project Impact, Walmart had stripped selection and focused on a clean-store look in an effort to attract upscale shoppers. But that group proved a fickle lot.

Now, in a new advertising campaign breaking next month, Walmart will highlight its decades-old emphasis on low pricing by poking fun at competitors (*cough*Target*cough*) who use the sort of “high-low” strategy it just abandoned.

Another major prong of Walmart’s new strategy is to squeeze its time-tested format into smaller stores in big urban areas. It has had some success already doing so in Chicago and now, of course, it’s trying to establish a flagship in New York City.

As the retailer’s website notes, a new poll shows New Yorkers want a Walmart in the city, even while there is some local opposition. If Wal-Mart succeeds in winning over New Yorkers and opening a store in the Big Apple, that’s the kind of love that the chain could use more of.