Wal-Mart shifts from chic to cheap
As dollar stores eat into its market share, the giant discounter returns to its roots.
Watch out: Prices may again be falling at Wal-Mart.
Tired of being nibbled by dollar stores on the one hand and the likes of Target and Amazon on the other, the discount retailer is returning to its roots -- undercutting the competition.
Grocery trade publications say Wal-Mart has been contacting its suppliers and telling them they'd better produce "opening price point" products -- the cheapest items in a category, in other words -- if they expect to remain on Wal-Mart shelves.
Supermarkets shuddered, and some shuttered, when Wal-Mart waded into the grocery business a decade or so ago. But now Wal-Mart is getting the shivers as dollar stores and gas stations expand their stocks of milk, eggs, produce and other grocery products.
Just a few days ago Wal-Mart said it would be working to provide healthier and more affordable food choices. Most of the media attention went to the healthier part of that equation, as the retailer pinned its plan to First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to reduce excess poundage among the citizenry.
But affordability promises to be an even bigger issue, as food costs are expected to climb. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the consumer price index for food will rise 2% to 3% this year, due in large part of higher energy and food commodity prices.
Beyond the grocery section, Wal-Mart's ill-fated attempt of a few years back to move upmarket is still being blamed for sluggish sales of everything from cosmetics to appliances. Instead of emulating Target's stylish approach to value, Wal-Mart is moving back to its time-tested formula of having the lowest possible prices on just about everything.
The low-price approach is also seen as key to Wal-Mart's plans to muscle its way into urban areas with smaller stores -- the Wal-Mart equivalent of the corner bodega.
Wal-mart is nothing but a plague upon this earth...a very cheap, tacky plague.
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