What does Walmart suddenly know that no one else seems to know? At a time when traditional retail sales are struggling to even stay in the shadows of online sales, Walmart has decided to increase its base of SKUs with more than 8,500 products it had previously removed from its already cluttered and overstocked shelves.
One might rightly ask: What’s up with that? Does Walmart suddenly care about its customers? I doubt it; this is the same retailer who maintains 30 checkout aisles in every store but only opens four at a time just to remind customers who is in charge. No, let’s be clear, Walmart hasn’t cared about customers since Sam Walton crossed over in 1992. And even he saw customers pretty much the same way P.T. Barnum saw them.
And that is just fine. People and their companies have the right to generate revenue and make profits, just as consumers have the right to avoid them or willingly hand over their hard-earned incomes. We are a free market economy… sell what you want, buy what you want.
But I have a bad feeling about this new Walmart move. I think they finally realized (or accepted) who their primary demographic is and they are now pulling out all the stops to get them back in their stores before it is all over. I think they now know that older Americans who don’t shop online and need somewhere to go during the day are a prime target. I think they know that middle and lower income families who have yet to embrace online shopping are a prime target. I think they know that a huge assortment of consumers looking for deals on things they simply can not or will not purchase online – everything from cotton balls and laundry baskets to cereal and spaghetti sauce – are a prime target. That’s a pretty diversified audience requiring a pretty diversified product line. And it sounds a little more like Sam’s Club or Costco than Walmart.
Then again, everybody loves a circus. So, maybe Walmart really does know something that no one else knows.
The day after Halloween, I started seeing Walmart and Kohl’s holiday television ads. Pottery Barn already distributed its 1st holiday catalog, Target featured a toy guide in Sunday’s paper, Santa is already appearing in the malls, and just this week I started seeing direct response televisions ads for holiday music CDs. It is like we skipped Thanksgiving and went straight to the holiday season.
I completely understand why retailers are starting the holiday season advertising and marketing sooner, and it is apparently working because I’m already feeling like I’m behind with my holiday travel plans, holiday cards and holiday shopping. And I don’t think I’m the only one because the city of Wilmington put up its holiday decorations downtown last week and my sister has already been bugging me for gift ideas!
Personally, I think we as consumers need to take a stand. If we don’t, Christmas in July will soon be a reality! Join the “It’s Too Early for Christmas” Facebook group and take a stand http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=318417645693
Consumers have been selling used cars, boats, vans, etc. on eBay for some time. In fact, about 6 or 7 years ago, a client of ours purchased a fleet of work vans from eBay. My husband even drove to Alabama (I refused to go) to get a boat he purchased off eBay a few years ago. However, it came as quite a shock to me that GM is selling new cars on eBay. The program is currently limited to California, but GM hopes to expand it nationwide.
Industry opponents argue that people will still want to go to the dealership to see, feel and drive a new car. That is true if a consumer doesn’t know what he or she wants, but if you know exactly what you want to purchase, why not try the eBay model? You really don’t have anything to lose. According to an article in The Washington Post the “buy it now” price will be less than the sticker price, but will be set by individual dealers.
GM has actually selected an opportune time to test the online model with online retail sales expected to hit $156 billion in 2009 (an 11% growth over 2008) according to Forrester.
Americans have grown accustom to purchasing consumer products online. Even products where personal attention is important, like prescription drugs or medical supplies, or products where touching and feeling is important, like furniture and jewelry has not stopped consumers from purchasing these products online. I suspect this will be the same case with purchasing cars off the Internet. It will be the right fit for some, but others will still prefer the dealerships. However, we will likely see this online model become more common among car manufacturers.