08/18/2005: Thought for the Day:
A few pointers for Wal-Mart as it embarks upon its new upscale course:
Make an intense study of Restoration Hardware's inventory management. Rather than pile up cheap goods to the ceilings, Restoration tastefully sprinkles expensive tchotchkes around even-more-expensive leather chairs. Charging $20 for a basic wall hook isn't just chutzpah; it's a form of retail genius.
Dispatch teams of anthropologists to Southampton, N.Y., in August to watch folks strolling up and down Main Street. Convene focus groups to plumb the psychology of customers, who, already possessing 200 pairs of shoes, are willing to spend their ancestors' hard-earned cash on four more pairs at Saks. (To get people to show for the groups, forgo the usual $50 plus punch and cookies. Offer Botox and vitamin-spiked water instead.)
Send the grocery crew to shadow shoppers at the farmer's market in Berkeley, Calif. So Wal-Mart can deliver a 4-gallon jar of tomato sauce for 99 cents. Big whoop! Watch and learn at farm stands that charge $5 per pound for heirloom tomatoes that are personally tended by an ABD in linguistics and fertilized with the manure from free-ranging cows.
Establish greeter re-education camps. The handshake, the smile, and the friendly welcome may go over big in rural North Carolina, but upscale customers like to be ignored, mistreated, and discouraged. For a hefty fee, trainers from Barneys and Bergdorf-Goodman will teach Wal-Mart greeters to instantly recognize A-listers and to identify the telltale signs of big spenders (seventysomething men accompanied by twentysomething blondes) and of tourists who will look but not buy (Gap bags).
It will take a lot of expense and effort to convert Wal-Mart into a sort of hybrid of Whole Foods, Neiman-Marcus, and Williams-Sonoma. But if Wal-Mart is serious about growth, and about becoming the retailer of choice for all Americans, it has no choice.
Len on 08.18.05 @ 07:06 AM CST