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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.
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