Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Walmart Expanding Test Of In-Store Wireless Shops


Walmart is
planning to expand its test of in-store mobile
specialty shops to a total of 350 supercenters
this year.

The in-house pilot was launched in 200
stores last fall and will be extended to an
additional 150 locations this year.

Located at the front of the discounter’s
big-box flagships, the Walmart
Wireless stores are about 2,000 square
feet in size and offer a select assortment
of smartphones, cellphones and pre-,
post-paid and hybrid service plans, including
Walmart’s exclusive Common
Cents and Family Mobile pay-as-you-go
products. Tablet computers are not yet
part of the mix.

Gary Severson, home entertainment
senior VP for Walmart U.S.,
said the specialty stores provide customers
with greater plan and product
assistance, more privacy, and a better
overall shopping experience. He
said initial results have been “very

Severson noted that unlike other
freestanding mobile spin-offs in the
marketplace, the Walmart Wireless
shops are located within the parent
chain, alongside eyeglass, banking
and other front-of-the-store services,
due to the high volume of traffic
that its supercenters draw, Severson

“The reason that some companies
have created standalone stores is a
lack of traffic,” he noted. “We have a
lot of good traffic. So this is our version
of a standalone store – within
our own stores.”

The shops join a crowded marketplace
of freestanding wireless specialty
stores that includes thousands
of carrier and agent outlets and the
burgeoning Best Buy Mobile chain.
The latter will double its store count
to over 300 locations this year in addition
to in-store departments within
all its big-box flagships, and could
have an estimated 600 to 800 freestanding
stores in place by 2016,
the retailer said.

Nevertheless, Walmart sees its
standalone stores as a further opportunity
beyond its entertainment
departments and e-commerce site to
tap into explosive demand for smartphones,
accessories and data plans,
which are among the fastest-growing
segments in CE. Indeed, The NPD
Group said smartphones represented
50 percent of new handset volume in
the fourth quarter of 2010, from 31
percent the year prior, while mobile
phone accessory revenue grew 18
percent last year to $1.2 billion.

Even still the category remains
underpenetrated, said NPD industry
analysis VP Stephen Baker, and despite
brick-and-mortar competition,
the standalone retail model “supports
lots and lots of locations.”

The specialty format also addresses
what Baker sees as
Walmart’s greatest CE challenge:
growth in mobile. “The category
requires more sales assistance and
another level of merchandising,” he
said. “Prepaid phones are a graband-
go business, but subscriptions
require employee labor.”

Walmart has utilized its front-of-the
store retail space for tests of numerous
leased and in-house concepts,
including computer repair shops,
pre-owned video game exchanges,
and more recently, a revived appliance
pilot with GE