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The Right Formula

Posted on July 2, 2012 by HFN Staff

By David Gill

Walmart keeps it simple in its housewares department.

According to Michelle Gloeckler, senior vice president of Walmart's home division, the retailer's focus for its housewares department is to be a one-stop shopping resource for all things food- and home-related--and, of course, to offer housewares at everyday low prices.

It's a straightforward strategy, one that Walmart has adhered to for half a century for all of its merchandise.

In an interview with HFN, Gloeckler said, "We are committed to providing the right assortment of home products at low prices every day. Our customers can visit Walmart for all their home needs, from cooking and dining to bed and bath to organization and cleaning, home decor and even outdoor living."

While this strategy drives Walmart's business in every department, the company identified home as a particular opportunity in the first quarter of this fiscal year. In a conference call to analysts detailing the company's first-quarter financial results, Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., cited home as one of the merchandise categories in which "we focused attention on driving sales" and "where we greatly expanded the assortment" in the first quarter.

A visit by HFN to a Walmart supercenter in Springfield, N.J., provided a clear picture of how the retailer merchandises housewares. The housewares department occupies nine aisles overall, and includes endcaps featuring products such as Black & Decker blenders and refrigerators; Keurig Elite coffeemakers; the Rival line of rice cookers, coffeemakers and quesadilla makers; Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Makers; and Crock Pot Slow Cookers. A number of endcaps are devoted to vacuum cleaners from manufacturers such as Bissell, Dirt Devil and Eureka.

The presentations in the aisles are straightforward. Major run space is devoted to products such as cutlery (including cutting boards), storage products, small electrics and cookware.

The assortment covers the whole brand gamut as well. "We offer a combination of top national brands, as well as proprietary Walmart brands (such as) Mainstays and Better Homes & Garden, so our customers can choose the products they want for their homes," Gloeckler said.

Illustrating Walmart's focus on offering a one-stop experience for shoppers' food needs, the grocery department is right across an aisle from housewares, in the very center of the store, and is the key adjacency for the housewares department. "Our customers who pick up a new coffeemaker can also purchase their favorite brand of coffee," Gloeckler said. "Similarly, a customer who purchases new cookware is able to shop for ingredients for tonight's family dinner."

Obviously, the housewares merchandise is\ not confined to the stores. "In our commitment to offering our customers a multichannel experience, in addition to the broad assortment of home items available in stores, Walmart also offers customers additional products available exclusively through walmart.com," Gloeckler said. "Many of these items are also available to be shipped to a store for pickup through our free Site-to-Store service. Customers can clearly identify which items are available in-store versus online only through the 'What's in Store' feature."

While assortment is important both in the stores and online, Walmart's business model is centered on its focus on everyday low prices--in housewares and in every department in the store. Finding ways to further lower prices will remain the centerpiece of its ongoing strategy to grow sales, especially in its U.S. stores.