Wal-Mart’s Buyers Are Blogging

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Here’s the headline from yesterday’s New York Times business section: “Unbound, Wal-Mart Tastemakers Write a Blunt and Unfiltered Blog.”

For someone like me — who for years tried to get Wal-Mart merchandise managers to talk about toys and video games, when I covered those businesses years ago, and in the past few years has tried to get access to their CE guys — well, the headline floored me.

In the 1980s when I covered toys and video games, the party line from the Bentonville, Ark., Goliath was, “We don’t speak to the trade press.” And then you’d hear a dial tone.

Well, things have changed over the years. TWICE and other trade publications get to visit with top Wal-Mart execs once or twice a year; sometimes, when it has a new store configuration focusing on CE, we will get a call. While everything is very polite nowadays, communication is still random.

Even today, when trying to get Wal-Mart’s take on what’s selling at what price and why, the CE merchandising manager’s response remains — as they used to say from Coney Island to Greenpoint, Brooklyn and now familiar to those who are not of Italian-American heritage: “fughettaboutit.”

Wal-Mart said www.checkoutblog.com is supposed to be unfiltered and as the Times reported some bloggers there are more personal than others, and some bloggers are going to offend suppliers. (At this point does upper management at Wal-Mart really care what suppliers think?)

Are the comments by the buyers and merchandise manager on the Wal-Mart blog edgy and sometimes negative? Visit the site and you be the judge.

This is just another instance of how the world is changing. Wal-Mart isn’t the only retailer that has a blog, but if it is successful in driving business it their sites and stores, it will be standard operating procedure for all retailers rather quickly.

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