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Target-Walmart

If you’re a Walmart or Target shopper, you may notice some changes in your local stores in the near future. Both big box chains have new bosses, each of whom is looking to make his mark. What that will mean for customers, is more discounts, more choices, more open checkout lanes and more time to do your shopping.

Sounds like everything you could possibly need!

That’s certainly what each store’s new CEO hopes. First to Walmart, where the new President and CEO of Walmart U.S. is promising to improve the shopping experience. In a call with investors last week, Greg Foran identified six “key customer requirements: being in stock, clean stores, the right price, the right items, improved service, better productivity.”

On the first point, out-of-stocks have long been an issue that Walmart has pledged to solve. Clean stores – and making sure items are on the shelves and not on the floors – is a related priority.

As for “the right price” and “the right items”, Walmart is planning new and cheaper private label options. “Great Value” products are already a mainstay on Walmart’s grocery shelves. But if even they’re too fancy for you, Walmart is planning a national rollout of its basic, bargain-priced “Price First” line of products. With stark, no-frills white and blue labels that read “SPAGHETTI”, “YELLOW MUSTARD” and “BATHROOM TISSUE”, the products look like a throwback to a bygone era when private label products looked, well, cheap.

The low-priced alternatives complement “price investments” (i.e., lower prices) that Walmart says it’s already made in its stores. “We continued to invest in price, particularly in the categories of meat and health and wellness,” Foran told investors. Walmart also recently rolled out its “Savings Catcher” automated price match system, nationwide.

To help address the last two items on the list, “improved service” and “better productivity”, Walmart has unveiled what it calls its “checkout promise”. “We’re going to open more registers than ever before,” Walmart chief merchandising officer Duncan Mac Naughton announced, saying that “customers told us they want to get out of the stores quickly.”

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It’s one of the great mysteries of life why Walmart supercenters have so many checkout lanes, when so few of them seem to be open at any given time. Things got even worse, not better, when Walmart started installing more self-checkout machines in its stores. That just meant that the more complicated, time-consuming, ad-matching transactions were the only ones taking place at regular registers manned by cashiers, creating huge bottlenecks.

Unfortunately, the increased cashier staffing won’t be an everyday occurrence. It’s planned for the holiday shopping season, during peak times like Black Friday and weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After that, you may find yourself standing in a long line at the one open cash register in the entire store, because your coupons wouldn’t scan correctly at the self-checkout. But hey, it’s a start.

On to Target now, which is planning its own new initiatives – the first of which is longer hours of operation. Unlike many 24-hour Walmart locations, most Target stores shut their doors by 9 or 10pm each night. No longer. Target is in the process of extending more than half of its stores’ regular hours to 11pm and even midnight at some locations. “There is a really big opportunity here,” Target spokesman Eric Hausman told the Wall Street Journal, noting that shoppers had been asking for Target to keep its doors open later – especially those shoppers who get rushed out at closing time.

With Target struggling lately, it also helps to be able to wring every dollar from every shopper that it can.

The new hours were in the works before Target’s new CEO Brian Cornell came on board last week. What other changes does he have planned? “I wouldn’t expect any changes in the next few months,” he predicted in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He hopes to get to know the company and get through the holiday season before making his mark.

Retail analyst Walter Loeb notes that Cornell, whose last job was CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods, “will have the opportunity to create some sensational value promotions in the food departments and gain greater sales momentum for the whole store.” Yet Cornell promises that he’s “not going to turn Target into a grocery store.”

Cornell’s predecessor bet big on groceries, and food represents more than half of Walmart’s sales these days. So while Walmart doubles down on groceries with its brand new, low-priced product line, Target may spend more time focusing on “style, fashion, apparel,” according to Cornell, which he says is “core to the DNA of this company.”

So if you’re a Target shopper, look out for further changes to be announced. If you’re a Walmart shopper, look for changes that are already under way. And if you’re neither – well, each new CEO hopes his changes can help change your mind.

One Comment

  1. I gotta say that this new app feature of the sale or best price catcher is a neat new feature. It is a little cumbersome since it takes a couple days at least to find the sales. But I will say that it had sure gotten my attn and I may actually shop Wal-Mart more often since it will give me more chances to save money by scanning my receipt and what I buy by scanning local sales from local stores. It has already found me savings! I was pleasantly surprised. And I am liking the e receipt thing too. I wish all the stores I went to did e receipts.

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