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Wal-Mart Upgrades CE Departments

5/14/2007 08:16:00 AM Eastern

Bentonville, Ark. — Wal-Mart is enhancing its CE departments with improved assortments, signage and in-store support. The chain is rolling out the changes system-wide beginning this week.

Newly added product lines include Skype VoIP service and accessories, Vizio flat panel TVs and better HTiBs from Sony and Philips. Wal-Mart will also expand its selection of Samsung TVs with more SKUs in larger screen sizes, is adding 1080p LCD panels in sizes over 40W inches from Philips and Polaroid, and is augmenting its digital imaging offering with SLR models from Canon and Nikon.

Wal-Mart will also drop all analog TVs effective this month, and will provide in-store signage explaining the country’s coming transition to all-digital broadcasts.

The world’s largest retailer said it is worked with suppliers to edit and often expand its TV, camera and PC assortment based on customer preferences, “targeting their needs for obtaining the best price, brand or both.”

All stores will also receive bright new displays highlighting specific products with easy-to-read details, including a new camera bar and modular merchandisers for digital photo frames from Kodak and Polaroid. The display enhancements, which also include new in-store signage and shelf-talkers, come on the heels of a massive CE department remodeling last year.

To prepare for the enhancements, Wal-Mart said its CE department sales associates completed an “aggressive” customer service and product training program this year.

“Consumers are more technology driven today than ever before and are searching for the right price and products to quickly meet their needs,” said Kevin O’Connor, Wal-Mart’s VP and general merchandise manager for consumer electronics. “These changes share our focus to help simplify the buying decision by offering sought-after brands with an easier shopping experience, all at the Wal-Mart price.”

Indeed, the company vowed that “value will continue to be a key driver,” with prices on 32W-inch LCD TVs for example moving below $500.

New product include:

Skype certified hardware headsets under $15, Web cameras under $25, handsets under $30 and the first Skype prepaid cards;

Vizio’s 26W-inch, 32W-inch, 37W-inch and 42W-inch LCD TVs, and 42W-inch and 50W-inch plasma TVs.

Additional SKUs will be available online only, but can be shipped free for pick-up at an expanding number of Wal-Mart stores under the company’s “site to store” service.

O’Connor also indicated that “all future electronics products ordered for our stores” will have to be compliant with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), which limits the use of lead, cadmium, mercury and other environmentally hazardous substances.

Commenting on the CE upgrades, Wal-Mart’s marketing senior director Greg Hall said, “Our improvements to the in-store experience launching this week reflect our customer’s need to have the electronics shopping decision simplified. For our customer, that means quality brands at low Wal-Mart prices in an easier shopping environment. This effort represents a key step in educating shoppers about new cutting edge products, while creating an exciting store within a store experience.”

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