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Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

It's Walmart, Stupid

July 22, 2013

So, the news that the Boys from Bentonville have retaken the No. 1 spot in our rankings of the biggest retailers of home textiles products shouldn't come as a major shock to anybody who has been paying attention.

Yes, the suddenly usurped Bed Bath & Beyonders have returned to their runner-up spot despite having a mighty fine year and continuing to both open and buy new stores with their usual voracity.

But, after all, this is Walmart we are talking about, folks. They are the biggest, baddest, most ginormous machine ever invented to get product from secret don't-ask-don't-tell locations around the globe to the homes and businesses of just about everybody in this country - and a whole lot of people in other countries, too.
The world has never seen an entity quite like Walmart and despite all its failings - of which there are many - it is a world-class company that has changed the very nature of business, global economics and consumerism everywhere it has touched down.

That said, the wonderful world of sheets and towels has not always been kind to them. As with any fashion goods, Walmart has struggled with the classification, never quite getting the balance of fashion and function quite right to meet the demographics of its consuming customer base.
Compared to its closest competitor, Target, it has not developed its soft home business as a share of overall general merchandise sales to the same extent and, let's face it, nobody is crashing Walmart servers or rushing their stores when it introduces a new program the way it happens at Target.

But Walmart shoppers always know they will get a fair price - even if it's not the lowest all the time - on a decent product - even if it's not going to win any fashion awards. Consumers can't always say that at every place they shop.

Walmart suppliers always know they are going to get a decent payback for what they sell if they have their supply chain acts together and are feeding the beast what it needs. Vendors can't always say that at every place they do business with.

Like any business that is so big that even billion dollar swings barely move the needle, there are many things Walmart can do better. It still doesn't have a consistent branding strategy that is right for its customers. It needs to monitor its overseas manufacturing sources much, much better. And the whole Mexican bribery scandal inquiry has gone on embarrassingly too long.

But the country's biggest seller of home textiles products? Yeah, I think so and I think they've earned the right to be called that.