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Jennifer Marks

Walmart Gains in 'Live Better' Appeal

Walmart brought analysts on the Morgan Stanley Arizona Field Trip to one of its Project Impact stores here last week to show off a strategic remodel/new store set that will roll out over the next five years.

Bill Simon, evp and coo for Walmart U.S., said the stores express "some of the warmth" of Walmart's "live better" marketing proposition. "The big, bold price statements say 'save money,' but the greens and yellow ... on the side of the wall, along with the vibrant produce also start to communicate the 'live better' in store as well, and we believe that's important."

The emphasis in the home area on the house brands Mainstays and Canopy as well as captive brand Better Homes and Gardens restates Walmart's good/better/best tiering, Simon said. "And the product clarity along with the color this year, which is certainly on trend, is having a very big impact on the business. Another interesting thing that has happened is, we've gotten the assortment where it needs to be."

(See "Walmart Enhances Fashion," March 23 HTT, page 1, for a detailed description of the home department layout and signage.)

Makeover aside, everything still begins and ends with price, Simon said. He noted a proliferation of price-driven advertising by Walmart's competitors as the recession deepened. "Welcome to the price game," he said. "That's ours. We like that. Anything played on price we believe will be in our favor."

Indeed, one of the key features of Project Impact stores is their bigger, bolder signage calling out price. However, as noted in HTT's March 23 story on one of the new units in West Palm Beach, Fla., some of the ceiling prices in domestics are higher than they had been on like merchandise.

Simon said store traffic is growing significantly for both households with incomes above $65,000 and those with incomes below.

"A lot of the press would lead you to believe that there is a big benefit to trade-down for us, and while that's accurate, it is not the whole story," he said. Higher income shoppers normally stick to the grocery side of the stores, "but in the past 12 months we've seen them move into some of our general merchandise categories as we have improved that offering by adding some national brands in areas like electronics."

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