Depressionista? Wal-Mart Is the Hot New Store

Update 12/17: Still doubt me? Check out this recent article quoting newly released retail stats. Apparently Wal-Mart is doing so well, that it may actually save the retail industry from… wait for it… a depression.

Wal-Mart is the Hot New Store

Six months ago, people (okay, mostly New Yorkers) laughed when I would say the above statement. However, with the failure of the auto industry bailout, high end stores virtually liquidating their stock, and “Depressionista” replacing the term “Recessionista” as the new “ista” term, Wal-Mart and other discount mass market stores are in the prime position to be the hot new stores.. if for no other reason than they may be the ONLY shops in town.

Why do I think Wal-Mart so hot?

First, it’s the economy stupid.  Wal-Mart, through it’s mass bargaining power and it’s revolutionary distribution system, is able to sell items at a low price, at a time when our incomes are dropping at an alarming rate. In a challenging economy, brand loyalty, tends to go out the window and cheaper prices equal more costumers.  For example, a pair of black leggings, which retail for $19.99 at H&M and $9.99 at Target, can be found at Wal -Mart for $6. Don’t even get me started on the Sam’s Club brand of groceries—the brand’s powered lemonade mix is a full $3.00 cheaper than the Crystal Light version. As consumers struggle to meet their basic necessities, having the brand named version of items in which you can’t really distinguish between the branded version and the “generic” version, like in the case of black leggings, will frankly not be a priority.

Second, reckless consumerism is dying. Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, one of the most popular female fictional characters of the past decade, treated consumerism as if it was a personality trait. In fact, one of the most popular episodes from the series focused on the fact that Carrie had $30,000 worth of shoes in her closet, but no money in the bank. If the show was still on air, we would find Carrie laid off from her columnist gigs and forced to sell her shoes on eBay to cover her mortgage. Instead of taking a Lincoln Town car to Barneys, she would be taking a Zipcar to the Secaucus Wal-Mart. The Carrie Bradshaw’s of the world are not the only ones changing. We’re also seeing several, very interesting trends, such as the reemergence of layaway and stylistas choosing the more time consuming process of sell their clothing on eBay and to consignment stores, rather than throwing them in a bag and dropping them at the local charity thrift shop.

Third, one stop shopping is back. Like a lot of men, my husband doesn’t like to shop. In fact he breaks out into hives at the mere thought of having to spend time in a retail establishment…..except for one….Wal-Mart.  Why does he, and apparently a large number of the male population, like to shop at Wal-Mart? In the words of my hubby: “I can get in and out of the store in less than 20 minutes and I don’t need to comparison shop because I know it’s the cheapest price”. The Wal-Mart brand embodies traits that men admire – realism, practicality, efficiency. These are the very same traits we’re seeing praised in society today. Case in point: the realistic appeal of Michelle Obama and the way she wears very practical outfits from mall-based stores like Gap, a store where she can efficiently purchase items for herself, the President-elect, and then walk next door and purchase items for her children.

Fourth, Wal-Mart itself has become more fashionable. The store has really upped its style game, remodeling its women’s apparel section, getting rid of product lines by corny c-list celebrities, launching organic lines while Target was still pushing Proenza Schouler to folks who frankly didn’t care, and launching the brilliant Norma Kamali for Wal-Mart line. Wal -Mart, unlike it’s competitor Target, also didn’t forget their core consumer.  While Target focused on expanding it’s junior lines, totally ignoring the working moms who usually shop at the store,Wal-Mart developed a partnership with Kamali, to create stylish versions of the sweats Wal-Mart costumers love in, OMG, misses sizes. I predict that many top designers, (my dream is Marc Jacobs), will be begging Wal-Mart to allow them to produce a budget, mass market line for the store.

Fifth, the cool kids want to play. According to CNET, Wal-Mart will sell the Apple iPhone and Nintendo Wiis, arguably the two hottest holiday gift items, this December at select stores.  As any former high school student can tell you, once the cool kids accept you, it’s only a matter of time before you become a cool kid yourself.

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Comments

  1. scrapgirl1467 says

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    I have lived down south, where Walmart has ruled for years, and I live in NY now (where Walmarts can be hard to come by).  While everything you say is true, and certainly with the economic climate we are in, we need to shop wisely, there is also a downside to the Walmart phenomenon.  All individuality is lost, they cause mom and pop places to vanish – taking customer service with them.  If Walmart doesn’t carry it, good luck finding it anymore.  Try finding sales help at a Walmart sometime, or at least good help.  I shop there, I am not saying there is anything wrong with it, and just as the image of a Carrie Bradshaw having 30K of shoes was ridiculous to most women, looking to Walmart to save us would be as silly.

    I also happen to live about 15 mins. from the Walmart where the employee was trampled to death on “Black Friday” and I think Walmart’s response has been terrible.  I also worry about the mentality of people who could do such a thing and keep shopping, but that’s a rant for another post.

    Thanks for a good post and some thought provoking content.  I always enjoy your blog!

  2. prettyafrika says

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    thanks for the article…I am still not convinced…I bought some skinny jeans from Walmart and got maybe 2 good wears out of them (they are now saggy jeans), I tried.  And don’t get me started on the long lines, horrifying filthy stores and crappy attitudes of their sales staff.

    Sticking to Target…

  3. Target-Addict says

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    I completely agree with the comments by scrapgirl467, especially the part about WalMart destroying so many honest, hardworking ‘mom and pop’ institutions and leading to less variety and more homogeneous, bland offerings.  And being from the opposite (West) Coast, allow me to offer my POV: WalMarts here are SEEDY.  Perhaps the stores in the heartland areas – where WalMart is the “only game in town” – are kept up better, but here in the Sunshine state I feel like I have to take a shower after a visit there.  It’s the total opposite experience than Target, which is why that is my big-box store of choice.  In fact, I have not set foot in a WalMart for the better part of 3 years.  Because of YOU, TBF, I did “test it out again” a couple of months ago, but found it to be in the same, sorry state.  I won’t be visiting again.  It has been well-publicized that Target has reacted to the current economic state by bringing their prices in line with WalMart; plus, it offers a much nicer shopping variety AND environment.

  4. waldenellis says

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    This article is a joke, right?  Walmart’s prices are cheap because they pay their employees terrible wages and employee overseas sweatshop labor. When I have other options, I won’t knowingly give this corporation my money.

  5. Target-Addict says

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    And to echo the comments from prettyafrika: WalMart’s quality is CRAP.  You, of all people TBF – who always preaches “cost per wear” and “you get what you pay for” – should realize this.  So what if a pair of leggings is a few dollars more at Target?  I’m sure they’ll last more than a couple of wash & wearings, unlike the WalMart ones.

  6. says

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    Scrapgirl1467- I agree with a lot of what you say. However the problem wasn’t that Carrie had $30k worth of shoes…it was that she had $30k worth of shoes and NO money in the bank.

    grechen- I have several items I’ve purchased at Wal-Mart (including the Norma Kamali Cucoon Jacket and Danskin tights) that I’ve worn so many times that the cost per wear is around $.10 (and counting). Also, I refuse to accept you bait that this is some sort of advert for Wal-Mart. That’s ridiculous.. Where’s your concern when we praise Target? Or Gap? Or Banana Republic?

    And regards to the term “depressionista”, believe it or not we read other stuff than fashion mags- and it’s the economists, not I, declaring that we may be heading towards a depression or at least “depression economics”:
    Read these articles to bring you up to speed:
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/26656750
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=948498428&play=1
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/opinion/14krugman.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=depression&st=cse
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/22/depression-analogies/?scp=6&sq=depression&st=cse

    In general, I welcome the debate, but if we’re going to have a fair debate, then provide facts and links (like I did in both the article and in my first comment) to support your stance.

  7. says

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    Here’s what I wrote in response to Yuli’s post. This comment was posted on her blog as well:

    Responsibility goes both ways.

    It’s frankly irresponsible to write a post making a very strong and potentially damaging accusation, without even taking a moment to gather the facts. Before jumping on me and assuming it was a paid post, the responsible thing for you to do would have been to give me the professional courtesy of asking me if it was a sponsored post. If you would have, and I’m known for my honesty, I would have told you the answer is a clear “NO”.  In fact, if you search the archives of TBF, you will see I’ve been both a fan and critic of Wal-Mart (and Target) for years. This is nothing new. Neither is the hatred, many times justifiable, towards Wal-Mat. As I’ve said before, Target is really no better. Just has better advertisement.

    I find it amazing that I write something in defense of Wal-Mart, a store that everyone loves to hate because frankly it has horrible branding and poor business social skills, and it’s called a sponsored post, yet no one says anything regarding the numerous posts I’ve written praising Target, Gap, Old Navy, etc. What about the Salvation Army, which has a whole section in my book. I guess they’re collecting that change to pay for that “sponsored” section. Using that same sort of circular logic, I am to assume that the posts you’ve written about Bendels were sponsored posts? Or your posts about Te Casan? What about your relationship with AMEX during fashion week? Or because you say we’re not heading towards a depression, means that you’re an elitist?

    Also, if you read my comments- in which the commenter grechen also posted a comment- I supplied a large number of facts and cited sources to support my argument and challenged her (and now you) to provide the same number of recent facts to support your arguments.

    I will even take it one step further and, for a lack of a better word, challenge you to a public debate on this topic, whether Wal-Mart is the new “in” thing,  as I think it would be an excellent discussion regarding consumerism and impact of our challenging economy has on us as a consumers. We could set it up as a forum, invite fellow bloggers, readers, etc and video tape it.

  8. Yuli says

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    Kathryn, I really respect you as a blogger, but this article made me uncomfortable. In fact so much, that I wrote a post in response- http://myitthings.com/Yuli/Post/fashion/It-Thing//2712122008174553830.htm.  I think it’s an important discussion and I’m curious to know yours and your readers’ opinions on endorsing the “depression” and this brand specifically.

  9. grechen says

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    Thanks – but I don’t need to be brought up to speed on economic issues; I don’t read fashion magazines.  But you probably know what they say about economists…three economists will give you four opinions.  Show me one economist who says we’re in or are heading towards a depression and I’ll show you one who says we’re not.  Unfortunately, “depression” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, not even economists.  But a generally accepted definition of depression is when real GDP declines by 10% (http://economics.about.com/od/recessions/a/2009_depression.htm), and according to the BEA, real GDP declined only by .5% in the 3rd quarter 2008 but increased 2.8% in the second quarter (http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm). A depression is also sometimes considered “a severe recession:”

    “David Owen, an economist at Dresdner Kleinwort, suggested a recession turns into a depression if it lasts more than three years. Most Western recessions last only a single year. Some last two years. Only one has lasted longer that wasn’t the result of war. They rarely last longer than that and only one—the Great Depression—was not the result of a war. We are still a long way from repeating that depression, economists say. Between 1929 and 1932, GDP fell by almost 30% in the U.S. The unemployment rate topped 23% in 1932.” (http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/investor-guide-key-terms-todays/story.aspx?guid=D8A649DA-4E2C-451D-8A3C-1C69DCBF939C&dist=SecEditorsPicks)

    And according to the chief economist at the OECD, (who’s not anticipating negative growth every quarter in 2009):

    “US output declines through the first half of next year, then gradually picks up as the effects of the credit squeeze abate, the housing downturn bottoms out and monetary policy stimulus takes hold. The recovery, however, is likely to be languid, as consumption is held back by the large losses in households

  10. mandabear says

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    To be honest, I will shop at Wal-mart for a lot of things: my beloved Garnier Fructise is like $2 less a bottle there than anywhere else.  Good deal.  But even I won’t go NEAR the clothes.  I’ve bought things there- they fall apart in like a month, tops.  This article ignored the fact that while, yes, Wal-mart does have good prices, other stores have better quality and with the insane clearances they’re having lately the prices aren’t much different.  Shop at Wal-mart for brands that you already trust, but honestly the Wal-mart clothing brands could not be crappier. And this is coming from someone who shops at the Goodwill because I think target is overpriced :-P

  11. Yuli says

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    Kathryn, I suggest we leave the depression vs. recession discussion to the economists. I don’t think it’s up to you or me to decide and mislead our readers. There will be always demand for budget fashion and there is no need to declare depression in support of your vision.

    I never accused you of getting paid by WalMart, in fact I appreciate you and your integrity as a blogger, and only questioned the tone of your post, which sounds very advertorial-like to me. To explain my point I mentioned that advertorial content should be labeled as such. There is a difference between posting a sale alert for specific retailer and declaring Saks death and victory of Walmart on all retailers, and proving it with bullet points.

    Most of the content you read on MyItThings.com is contributed by users, we are a user-generated fashion magazine, therefore you cannot hold me responsible for other people opinions (i.e. Bendel post). Our users aren’t getting paid, they contribute to the site because it’s their passion, and our sponsored content is always clearly labeled as such.

    I would love to take you upon the public debate offer, because I believe it’s an important subject that would interest many bloggers. In fact, we can make it part of our January Fashion 2.0 meetup (http://fashion.meetup.com/310), which already includes a large group of NYC online fashion community. We can setup a live video stream and invite people online to participate. I’m looking forward to your response, feel free to email me yuli (at) myitthings.com.

  12. grechen says

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    What? Sorry, calling the place where an employee died – trampled to death by desperate shoppers – the “hot new store” is incredibly irresponsible in my opinion.  Add to that the use of the term “depressionista” as if we’re already in a depression (which we definitely are NOT) or that we should all be depressed about the economy, this article reads more like an advertisement/advertorial for wal-mart – a not-so-subtle attempt to clean up their image (bury the black Friday incident) and make it “fashionable” to shop there again.

    And honestly, if you’re depressed about the economy/think we’re in a depression, or worried about your financial situation, who cares if wal-mart has the iphone for $99? If you’re fiscally responsible, you’re not going to be buying one anyway.  Being a responsible shopper isn’t always about getting things cheaper, it’s about knowing when NOT to buy.  And, in my opinion, it’s about knowing where everything you’re buying comes from, who made it, what it’s made from, and what’s going to happen to it when you’re finished with it.  This is why I shop locally and from small boutiques & designers online and NOT at wal-mart. 

    And again, I can’t stop thinking about the mob of people who trampled a man to death in their attempt to be the first to buy the cheapest stuff.  A place where that happens is not the “hot new store” in my opinion….

  13. says

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    We’ve had this debate before on the site… Wal-Mart is evil, while Target is good… While I am a fan and critic of both stores, I always become concerned when I read comments against Wal-Mart’s labor practices that at the same time hail target as a great store. Target is no friend of unions and actually Wal-Mart workers are often paid more than Target workers. I think most of you are basing your information on the stores deplorable labor practices of two, almost three years ago. Alot has changed…

    In fact, Wal-Mart provides health insurance to a larger number of its workers that Target. Read a recent NYT Article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/business/23walmart.html

    Wal-Mart is also using its power to force companies in developing nations to paying fair wages- http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/02/news/companies/walmart_gunther.fortune/index.htm

    Wal-Mart was one of the first retailers to really embrace the green movement and while they have a LONG way to go, they did it way before Target.

    While the agruement could be made that Wal-Mart gave consumers the knife that killed the mom and pop shops- the agruement could also be made that Shopping Malls, big grocery stores, along with the consumers need for cheaper products, also killed the mom and opo stores. Wal-Mart was/is just one of the killers, but not THE killer.

    And in regards to the horrible incident on Black Friday, I don’t blame Wal-Mart as much as I blame ourselves. What makes a person so desperate for a flat screen TV, that they would charge the door of a store? Is Wal-Mart the cause or the symptom of our rabid consumerism?

    What’s the difference? Target has a better ad agency and a super pr firm (Target’s PR firm LaForce Stevens is pretty much the best PR firm you can buy). Wal-Mart has failed to reach out to traditional and new media companies (try getting a garment for a TV Segment) Wal-Mart’s are often located in poor areas, while Targets are located in more affluent areas. All this has led to the perception that Target is more ethical than Wal-Mart. A perception that really isn’t based in the total truth.

    I am not saying those who disagree with me are classist- Wal-Mart staff are often unhelpful, the store can be a hot mess on a Saturday, and the lighting sucks, but comments about Wal-Mart often have a hint of snobbery.

    More reading on Target (there’s alot more available online)
    http://www.reclaimdemocracy.org/walmart/2005/target_better.php
    http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/article/2007/06/26/workday-minnesota.html

  14. TexanBargainHunter says

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    I agree with a couple of bloggers about comparing quality and prices all around. I actually enjoy Wal-Mart’s jewelry selection and their beauty prices are great.  Their prices on household items are consistently low, but it is always smart to scan circulars from other grocery stores. 

    I do agree they could do a bit better in the clothing department.  The items I have tried on didn’t really fit well. But then again, the Isaac Mizrahi line didn’t always look great on me either (gasp).  One woman’s potato sack is another woman’s perfect dress.  In other words, shop where it works for you.

    A few of the new Wal-Marts in Texas has expanded home areas and specialty food sections.

    And ladies, it isn’t Wal-Mart.  It is Wal du Mart (t is silent).

  15. Jenn_theglamourgirl says

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    I think that shopping locally is the best option, be it grocery or clothing.  However, there is a certain sense of self-righteousness with the statement, “I only shop locally”.  And perhaps a touch of elitism when someone will shun Walmart in favor of Target.  I shop everywhere, anywhere that I can.  Gorgeous summer dresses at Ross, great shoes at TJ Maxx, home decor and killer leggings at Target, Tights and workout gear at Walmart and plenty of second-hand-thrift-store finds.  If you have a store to recommend, I’m listening…I think that’s all TBF was trying to do.

  16. Shopgirl76 says

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    Wow, there sure are a lot of elitists and wannabe economists on this board. When did Wal-Mart become the devil? There are many stores which engage in the same or worse practices. Also, note that the name of this blog is the “budget” fashionista, which is what Wal-Mart is. Budget. Target is more expensive and thus not always an option. With all due respect to unions and whatnot, if it comes down to paying my mortgage and feeding my children, vs. being politically correct, guess which option I choose? Also, I think that many of you are relying on outdated info to demonize Wal-Mart and don’t have any clue what you are talking about. And the Black Friday incident was not caused by Wal-Mart—it was caused by greedy, uncaring consumers. Period.

    As far as shopping locally—I have looked into that option here in Phoenix and have found the prices to be far, far out of my price range. Anyone on a budget site who is calling for people to shop locally is really uninformed.

  17. TexanBargainHunter says

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    That Norma Kamali line is awesome.  It doesn’t look good on the hanger, but give it a try in the cardboard box wal-mart calls a dressing room.  The jersey dresses are awesome.

  18. Campbell says

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    Actually I think if you take the time to read labels Walmart is a fine choice. No you probably shouldn’t choose to buy your whole wardrobe there but Walmart is wonderful for standard pieces that last. Walmart’s 100% cotton t-shirts are a steal at $5-$7 and last for years, something I can’t say for my Old Navy ones which are so think you can see right through them. Now they even make them in flattering fits with a wider range of sizing.

  19. Target-Addict says

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    First off, about the “update” as of 12/17: I don’t think that anyone was doubting you, TBF, that Walmart is doing well during these tough economic times.  I believe what most folks had issue with was you deeming it the “hot new store”.

    Secondly: while I do praise you for fueling this discussion on your blog, it’s been AGES since you’ve had a post as interesting as this.  This post was classic “TBF”, the kind that hasn’t been seen in months.  Am I the only one to notice that your site has turned into mostly ads and posts about sales alerts and store discount codes?  While those are always fun to look at, it’s the “meaty content” about staying frugal that I crave, and that’s far and few between on your site these days.  I realize you’ve hit the big time; been on Oprah, have the book, a TV show coming up, etc. But it’s sad to see your blog deteriorate to one big sales circular.

  20. blackplaid says

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    i am proud and fortunate to be an army wife so i can drive past target and wal-mart and head to the PX.  if i can’t find it there then i add it to my drugstore.com list.

    my issue with big box stores is getting in and out with only the items i went there for.  i’m not really saving money on less-expensive items if i’m buying them unnecessarily.

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