New Trends in Retailing as It Affects Our Wal-Mart Program…
If any generalization is true of retailing in the 70s, it would have to be that our business is one of constant change. Increasingly this is just as true in our small trade centers as well as in the larger metropolitan areas. Consequently, it is most important that all of us in Wal-Mart be alert and curious to new trends and developments in retailing. It is imperative that each new process be studied and analyzed thoroughly to see if we can adopt the idea for Wal-Mart; or oftentimes we need to be informed in order to do a better job ourselves in certain specialized areas.
We’ve also had many innovative and excellent suggestions given us from within our own ranks that have been incorporated into our program for which we can be most thankful.
Let me share with you as of now some of these recent developments that would seem to have significance to us in Wal-Mart.
- There seems to be a very significant trend developing and increasing toward the growth of specialty stores all over the country. Such stores as fabric shops, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, home improvement and building supply stores, self-service shoe stores, and even the free standing pharmacy.
- Then on the other side of the coin we are noting the growth of successful operations of more and more large combination units of food and general merchandise, usually sized over the 100,000 sq. ft. range. They will oftentimes contain not only a full line food department but also will contain large appliance departments, complete soft line department store apparel and domestics, as well as assorted hard lines department.
- Increasing also is the food-hardline combo now being pushed by many of the food companies, hopefully to attain a higher gross margin as well as an appealing mix of merchandise for their customers.
- Another interesting development that we’ll watch is the “Hypermarche” warehouse approach to food and general merchandise as currently being operated in various European countries. This is a high volume, low margin (approximately 15 percent gross margin) operation. Also several of these type stores are planned for Canada to open this fall. These are super-large stores, up to 250,000 sq. ft. with all goods stocked in large steel warehouse type racks similar to our Wal-Mart Distribution Center approach.
- One other significant trend is a general decision on the part of all the giant retail concert to “head for the hills” – and away from the more competitive urban areas. Companies such as W. T. Grant, K-Mart, Woolco, and even Sears, have decided to take a dead aim at smaller communities in the eight to twenty thousand population range with definite smaller prototype stores for these markets. What they may not realize is that there already exists – at least in the mid-south and southwest – many very capably operated true discount department stores in these markets. All the regional variety store companies now have a discount division – Howard Stores and Howard-Gibco, as well as the assorted Gibsons, are present with strength. Not to mention some 70 to 80 Wal-Marts, of which we’re very proud, on the street with some 30 to 40 more in the planning stage.
I’m predicting the majors will find some tough competitive markets and there may not be the gold that they expected to find in such abundance in these “country” markets.
So the moral of the story is how can we best prepare ourselves for what’s ahead of us in the coming year 1974 and through to 1980.
First, let’s all keep tuned, open, and ready to try any new or different technique that might work for us and strengthen our program.
Second, our major aim and concern must constantly be to do a better job satisfying our customers, both with service and a selection and assortment of merchandise. And nothing is more important than having concerned, interested people at store level, doing and enjoying their jobs.
We’ve got a people company and it’s a people satisfying business. We must develop the proper management skills and techniques so that our program is good for all of us at all levels in our company. Then, and only then, can we truly compete on a consistent basis with anybody that might come down the road with whatever new approach and technique.
I truly feel that our type store will need to be constantly changed with new lines of merchandise and that certain other lines will be dropped, but the total key for our stores is that we retain our philosophy of being not only the dominant store in our areas, but more importantly, that we do the best job of anybody around rendering effective, friendly customer service.
I know we all agree Wal-Mart is No. 1 now, and I have a positive feeling that our people will settle no less than that our stores remain No. 1 in our communities for years to come. It will take us all thinking together and working together to achieve this goal for 1974, as well as in years to come.
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