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Wal-Mart Expounds On CE Strategy

6/08/2007 07:43:00 AM Eastern

Rogers, Ark. — Wal-Mart is testing the presence of “HDTV specialists” on its CE sales floors and this summer will introduce several HDTV SKUs in a new program with Sony as part of its recently announced CE initiatives.

The latest elements were confirmed during a media tour of a supercenter here, held in conjunction with the company’s recent annual shareholders meeting.

Gary Severson, entertainment and electronics senior VP, told TWICE, “One of the things we’ve been working on is our customer experience and how we can improve [it] to make sure that the customers already in the stores are going to be willing to spend their dollars with us here in our electronics area.”

To that end, Wal-Mart is deploying highly trained, yellow-shirted product specialists from its entertainment rack jobber, Anderson Merchandisers of Amarillo, Texas. “That’s in total test mode right now,” Severson said.

Wal-Mart has also been working on its communications and signing packages in the CE department, as well as offering electronic training modules in its Connections Centers, enabling departmental employees to train at will during slack periods.

In advance of the new Sony SKUs, the No. 2 CE retailer has also rolled out an assortment of sharply priced Vizio LCDs in a bid to offer consumers a choice between top tier and tertiary brands. Severson cited a 42W-inch panel at less than $1,000 and a 32W-inch model at under $500 among the Vizio offerings, although the company’s new consumer message focuses on value, rather than just low-price merchandise.

Indeed, Wal-Mart is driving new product and service initiatives in its CE department – including the introduction of Dell desktops and notebooks — even as it re-emphasizes the basics and opening price points in the rest of the store. The discounter has been struggling to increase customer counts and same-store sales as its core blue-collar shopper has been slammed by soaring gas prices and a sputtering economy. Those developments in tandem earlier forced Wal-Mart to readjust its still-unproven segmentation strategy and pay more attention to staple items and the everyday low prices that made it the world’s largest retailer, although it continues to aim higher in select categories including home, apparel and CE.

Complete coverage of Wal-Mart’s CE initiatives, as well as the retailer’s efforts to spur growth, will appear in the June 18 issue of TWICE.