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Walmart Gets Connected For The Holidays

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. – Walmart has completed its connected-devices connection with the rollout of dedicated Internet of Things (IoT) displays to some 2,000 stores this season.

The dual-sided fixtures feature a selection of wearables on one facing and a collection of connected home items on the other.

Wearables include smart watches and fitness bands from 3Plus, Burg, Caref, Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone, LG, Motorola, Polar and Samsung. Connected devices include wireless monitors, IP cameras, security sensors, garage door openers and lighting controls by Belkin/Wemo, Champberlain, D-Link, Insteon, iON and Motorola.

The complete assortment can be found within the CE departments of 1,200 stores while a smaller display featuring a more tightly edited selection has been rolled out to 800 locations.

“There’s a big opportunity in the Internet of Things,” noted entertainment senior VP/general merchandising manager Laura Phillips, the retailer’s CE chief. “The customers love Fitbit” – its Flex wristband was Walmart’s first ever wearable doorbuster last weekend – “and we’re working with all the partners to learn what else they respond to.”

Speaking at a pre-Black Friday media event at a Walmart store here, Phillips said the connected-home assortment remains platform agnostic as the discount chain continues to examine that business. “We’re kind of in testing mode, looking at home security and bundles,” she noted.

The fixtures feature detailed signage to help explain the complex category within a grab-and-go environment, although Walmart is also testing live display tablets and would consider staffing the sections with vendor-supplied labor, Phillips said.

“We need to make it simple and understandable for our customers,” acknowledged executive VP Steve Bratspies, who until last week led CE, entertainment, toys and other hardlines as head of general merchandise. “We’re still trying to figure it out.”

Bratspies has since moved over to food in a merchandising shake-up that included the pre-Black Friday resignation of chief merchant Duncan Mac Naughton, who had orchestrated Walmart’s staggered, tightly coordinated Thanksgiving weekend sales events.

Walmart projected Black Friday sales of 2 million TVs, 4 million video game titles and 20 million movies, spurred in part by discounts on 15 TV SKUs and a 30-percent-off A/V promotion with “key partner” Samsung that was offered online and in stores.

“It’s the first time we partnered on a cross-channel event,” Phillips said.

Samsung also provided in-store personnel for Black Friday, and figures prominently on the sales floor with dedicated, stand-alone displays showcasing its mobile devices and a 4K/UHD TV and soundbar.

Phillips noted that CE is Walmart’s largest category, which accounts for its predominant role in the company’s doorbuster promotions.

“People get the most excited about electronics,” added Bratspies.