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What's In Store At Walmart: TWICE Previews The New CE Department

6/07/2010 09:08:00 AM Eastern

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. - Walmart will continue to stretch the
boundaries of the full-line discount channel over the coming months as it rolls
out an array of advanced consumer electronics products and new in-store
displays in which to showcase them.

To find out what's in store for the discount chain - as well as
its customers and competitors - TWICE visited one of the first Walmart
locations within the greater New York metropolitan area to receive the complete
CE department reset.

The focus, explained home entertainment senior VP Gary Severson,
is on connectivity, as reflected in a slew of Internet-capable TVs and Blu-ray
Disc players, a larger assortment of home-networking devices and accessories, a
dedicated area for mobile broadband services, and a wider selection of
smartphones.

In video, the chain is complementing an expanded IPTV offering
with edge- and full-array backlit LED TVs from Samsung, Sony, Vizio and its
latest tier-one brand addition, LG, further blurring the line between the mass
and specialty channels.

The state-of-the-art TVs will be showcased within new "New
Technology" centers that are rolling out to 1,200 stores, while promotionally
priced models will be merchandised within a separate display area on the floor.

Size also matters for Walmart. The company is increasing its
SKU-count of 42-inch displays in most locations, and is widening its assortment
of 55-inch screens throughout more than half the chain.

Also expanding, by half, is the number of content-streaming
Blu-ray Disc players that Vudu's new owner will offer. The players, by LG,
Samsung, Sony and Vizio, are app agnostic and also offer services by Blockbuster,
Netflix, Pandora and other competitors.

Other home-theater enhancements include an expanded selection of
sound-bar-based HTiBs from Samsung and Vizio that will hit some 2,000 stores,
and a redesigned packaged media section, rolling out to all stores this summer,
that highlights new releases ("New"), Blu-ray discs ("Blu") and
promotionally-priced titles "Value").

In wireless, Walmart is stocking Cisco's easy-to-set up Valet
router along with other home-networking products and accessories from Belkin
and Netgear, while the mobile section receives a dedicated area for prepaid
broadband services from AT&T, Cricket, Verizon and Virgin.

Prepaid cellular options also increase with the 700-store rollout
of Common Cents, an exclusive program with Sprint that provides 7-cent texts
and 7-cent-a-minute talktime that rounds usage down rather than up.

In postpaid, Walmart is increasing its smartphone assortment by
nearly 60 percent year over year, and continues to get an early crack at
cutting-edge devices like Sprint's new Evo 4G phone from HTC.

The strategy, Severson said in a statement, is to "offer simple,
affordable solutions for creating a more connected life," and to create for
those products "a well-defined shopping experience... that enables customers to find
what they need quickly, learn about new technology, compare prices among top
brands, and every day find amazing value."

Indeed, recent price "rollbacks" include a Magnavox BD player for
$78, a Sanyo 42-inch LCD TV for $548 and a 47-inch LG LED TV for $1,568,
although a 52-inch, 120Hz LED from Sony, while aggressively priced at $2,058,
extends the discounter's typical price ceiling in pursuit of higher-income
customers.

To get a first-hand look at how the new product lines and
displays are being implemented, TWICE visited Walmart Supercenter No. 3795 in
the New York bedroom community of North Bergen, N.J. Opened in January, the
217,000-square-foot megastore reflects the company's newest format, featuring
the wide, uncluttered aisles, improved sightlines and brighter lighting of the
chain's Project Impact remodeling program.

The location's expansiveness also provided the runway for a CE
department reset featuring all elements of Walmart's latest electronics
initiatives, as seen in the accompanying store photos.