From Home Furnishing Business
A Giant Retail Strategy
By Sheila Long O’Mara
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, mass discounter Walmart can sure turn some merchandise, and the retailer has figured out how to recreate itself every five years or so.
That’s part of massive Walmart’s overreaching strategy. Today’s Walmart is far different from where the chain was in 2008, and it’s quite likely the retail giant will be much different in five years from now.
In a presentation last month at a retail conference in New York, Bill Simon, Walmart’s CEO, said the retailer was constantly investing in all channels. Those channels—ship from store, ship to lockers, smartphone self-scanning, same-day delivery and store loyalty—are building on the company’s founding principles of everyday low prices and a lean supply chain.
The interesting thing to note of Walmart’s strategy is that all the layers on top of that foundation, are open for discussion. Nothing is set in stone and inflexible. Currently, the retailer is in the midst of a number of new initiatives revolving around “the convergence of the digital and physical retail worlds,” Simon said. Take a look at a few of the projects that have come online at the giant retailer in the last 12 months.
1. Ship from store. The volume of fast-moving items ordered from Walmart.com that are then shipped to customers from local stores is in the “double digits,” Simon said. Ship from store is out of the test phase and now a reality.
2. Pay with cash—ONLINE. That’s unique for thee-commerce world. Walmart has figured out how to accept cash via its Web site.
3. Lockers in stores. Walmart has established lockers in its stores so customers can order online, go to the locker at a convenient time and pick up their order. Convenience at its best.
4. Scan and go mobile payment. This option gives consumers an easy self-checkout using their smartphone.
5. Store-specific mobile app. The app informs shoppers of specials available in a specific store on a particular date.
6. Same-day delivery. The grocery option is up and running in San Francisco.
What the heck does all of that have to do with strategy for furniture retailers?
Well, first of all, Walmart is selling a pretty decent chunk of furniture; that elephant in the middle of your marketplace is one of your competitors. Like it or not, it is. Next, the retailer is thinking strategically about its future, and that forecasting has its executive team looking ahead five years. What will the future look like for retail? For furniture retail? While the above specifics may not be specific to furniture, Simon hinted at other promising initiatives the retailer has cooking on its back burner. Adult beverages, fresh produce, Walmart Express AND, wait for it … home furnishings.
Much of what the retailer touches seems to turn to silver, if not gold. Strategic thinking is in its DNA. A lesson all retailers, including furniture dealers, should take to heart. Planning and thinking about and for the future are building blocks for success and longevity. Let’s get started on those and make the next five years in furniture retailing a success while we set the gears in motion for five and 10 years beyond.
Happy High Point Market! We’ll see you there.