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Walmart Upbeat On CE Biz: O’Connor

Las Vegas – Tablets, digital content and the new generation of display technologies are keeping Walmart keen on electronics in general and its own CE business in particular.

That’s the word from Kevin O’Connor, electronics VP/general merchandise manager for the world’s largest retailer, who shared his outlook and insights with TWICE during International CES. Here’s what he had to say:

On TV: “Some manufacturers and retailers are struggling as ASPs [average selling prices] are coming down, but that also makes TVs more affordable for more people. Our share continues to grow. We do really well in 42-inch and below, but our customers also gravitate to larger screen sizes, including 80-inch in some stores, where we reworked the TV wall to use the space more efficiently. We also provide delivery and basic setup though NEW, and use dot-com to explain the different technologies. We’re enthusiastic about the latest ones — UHD and OLED — which will create excitement for us in the future. The improvement in picture quality is dramatic, although UHD will require 4K content for demonstrating and viewing.”

On tablets: “Many customers are using tablets to access content, and we’re having fun with that category. Connecting digital to physical is the wave of the future and content is a great business opportunity. We also believe in the connected home, and tablets, cell phones and computers are key devices that form the hub of the department.”

On Kindle, which Walmart phased out last fall: “Kindle started for us as a best value, but then more choices came in.”

On showrooming: “Our market share continues to grow. People still want to see a TV before buying it, and our store managers have the discretion to match prices. We also have an ad-match program, and our customers can buy any way they want — in store, online or shipped to store.”

On “We work closely with dot-com, and go on buy trips with their merchant teams. The site has rich content, customer reviews and a broader assortment from our suppliers. We can also refine our local assortments based on dot-com purchases.”

On audio: “Headphones have been an important driver. We offer high-quality headphones at affordable prices in a variety of colors and styles. We’ve had good growth in soundbars too.”

On Windows 8: “We saw some Windows 7 transition, and the Microsoft folks will continue to help retailers market and support Windows 8. The Ultrabooks have nice form factors. We like the touchscreen feature, and we’re excited about Windows 8 tablets.”

On 2013: “People are very interested in accessing content and in picture clarity, and there’s a lot of new technology, so we’re very optimistic about the industry and Walmart’s electronics business.”