December 3, 2010,
"You can't listen to the complex and interlocking initiatives taking being pursued on several levels without being knocked out by the scope and ambition of Wal-Mart's plans."
IT'S GOING AFTER FASHION. No, wait - too much fashion. It's back to basics. It's going after the better customer. No, now it's going to focus on the core customer. It's going to cut skus. Too much cutting - it's going to expand assortments.
Jennifer Marks EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
That would sum up the news coming out of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s past several annual analyst meetings. One could be forgiven a sense of whiplash, but there is a consistent message Wal-Mart delivers to Wall Street and has been from time immemorial: We've got plenty of room for growth.
As the $405 billion retailer recently outlined its plans for the United States and the world earlier this month, I couldn't help recalling a conversation many years ago with then-cfo John Menzer, who described how Wal-Mart adopted Coca-Cola's way of looking at the marketplace.
Coke, he said, doesn't ask itself how much share of the soft drink market it owns. It looks at all the beverages consumed by all the people in the world and asks itself what percentage of that it owns.
Clearly, such thinking remains the order of the day. At its latest meeting, Wal-Mart announced plans to:
• Reach urban dwellers by allowing them to order from walmart.com and pick up their purchase at a local FedEx office;
• Get more shopping out of consumers in Wal-Mart neighborhoods by letting them order online and pick up at their local store later in the day;
• Expand into smaller markets with a small-footprint format. (You should be visualizing something to rival the little Family Dollar across the street from the lone gas station in a small Midwestern town);
• Attract business in countries where Wal-Mart doesn't operate stores by building a Web platform and distribution network that can sell to consumers there.
For the record, I left out a whole bunch of other stuff.
Whatever you think about the company, you can't listen to the complex and interlocking initiatives taking being pursued on several levels without being knocked out by the scope and ambition of Wal-Mart's plans. And as behemoths go, it's a relatively fast-moving one when it comes to strategic shifts.
Sure, some strategies fail - hypermarts, Bud's and Germany come readily to mind. But Wal-Mart learns the lessons to be had, then moves on.