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.