Wal-Mart Test Store Subtly Enhances Home
By Jennifer Marks -- Home Textiles Today, 3/27/2006 12:00:00 AM
Plano, Texas — —
Plano, Texas — Wal-Mart's new “laboratory” superstore has a lot of jazzy new elements: “Home & Living” signage above one of the outside entrances, a fresh sushi bar, a café with Wi-Fi access, a selection of 700 premium wines and a home accents area that brings to mind retail rival Target.
The location is a live test zone for items and ideas as Wal-Mart pushes ahead in its quest to extract more dollars from the wallets of monied customers who shop the retailer for consumables but little else.
“If something doesn't work, we will change it and try something else,” said John Fleming, exec vp and chief marketing officer. “And when an innovation resonates with our customers, we will consider introducing it in other stores.”
The store's eight principal areas are home, apparel, health, beauty, food, do-it-yourself, electronics and baby, and all feature new signage and graphics to enhance store navigation. The apparel area contains its own cash registers, and customers can keep the hangers on most purchases.
But in the domestics department, the message is subtler. The highest thread count sheet is the Springmaid Luxury 400-count sateen found throughout the rest of the chain. Wal-Mart's private label Home Trends label dominates the mix, supplemented with the Mainstays private label and some Springmaid in bed and bath.
No flashy “statement” items like 1,000-count sheet sets on the endcaps, either. Wal-Mart sticks to its low-price roots along the main aisle with non-branded jumbo bed pillows and colorful beach towels, each priced at $4.48.
The priciest endcap item throughout the department is a Springmaid Luxury king comforter set at $94.84. It is cross-merchandised with a Springmaid Luxury duvet set, a coverlet set, 400-count Egyptian cotton damask strip sheet set, dec pillows and a throw. A mini-bed dressed in the coverlet set tops the display.
Up and down the aisles, however, the design parameters are expanding. Vertical merchandising is tighter and tidier in the bedding area, and dec pillows here and there sport pearl covers, beading and faux fur. A few contemporary bedding patterns are salted through the mix, and there's a nod in the direction of Shabby Chic-style design in both bedding and dec pillows.
Sight lines are vastly improved, and clutter has moved out of the drive aisles in domestics. Signage is also bigger and bolder throughout the store.
“We have a long history of piloting new ideas in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” said regional general manager John Murphy. “We opened our first 24-hour pharmacies here, we ran the pilot of our Walmart.com site-to-store delivery service here, and we have tested many other innovations that were later introduced in stores around the country. We also opened our first experimental environmental supercenter in McKinney about 20 miles north of the newest Plano store.”
The test store is located at 1700 Dallas Parkway.
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