Wal-Mart opens new 'test lab' supercentre

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on March 30, 2006

Wal-Mart has opened a whole new concept store - a Supercentre in Plano, Texas, USA - which features new ideas in store layout, merchandise selection, and customers services designed to enhance the customer's shopping experience.

According to Wal-Mart, the new Supercentre is essentially a live testing laboratory for exploring merchandise, store layout, and service strategies. John Fleming, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Wal-Mart, explained: "Wal-Mart is adopting an active approach to understanding and meeting customer needs - particularly those of the selective female shopper. This store will function as an active laboratory for testing a range of new ideas and merchandise in a fully operational setting. If something doesn't work, we will change it and try something else. And when an innovation resonates with our customers, we will consider introducing it in other stores."

Features for the future?
The features of the new store are in direct response to the shopping preferences of female customers (who make the majority of purchases in supercentres, according to the company's research). Features include:

  • Store layout
    A store layout that positions departments in a way that female customers say makes sense for them. For example, consumables, pet food, and health and beauty aids are adjacent to grocery.
  • Distinct departments
    New signage and graphics that give each of the store's eight principal areas (home, apparel, health, beauty, food, do-it-yourself, electronics, and baby) its own character, to make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for.
  • Easier apparel shopping
    A redesigned apparel area with its own cash registers, more space around displays and racks, and a fitting area that offers more privacy and convenience. Customers can also carry most of their apparel purchases out of the store on hangers.
  • Less background noise
    The store offers a quieter shopping experience, with fewer PA announcements, no in-store radio, directional Wal-Mart TV (confined to distinct areas of the store) and quieter cash registers.
  • Expanded product ranges
    The store has a significantly expanded and diversified grocery selection, with more than 2,000 premium items in wine, dry grocery, meat, cheese, and produce that are new to Wal-Mart Supercentres. It also carries a wine section with 1,200 different selections, including more than 700 premium items specific to the new store. There is also an increased selection of gourmet cheeses, along with made-to-order sandwiches, hot panini sandwiches, and hot pizza.
  • Organically natural
    The store also boasts a greatly expanded organic and natural food offering, with nearly 500 items added to the produce, deli, bakery, meat, seafood, dairy and frozen food departments.
  • Extra convenience
    The store has a fresh sushi bar and a spacious (and "trendy", the company says) Wi-Fi-enabled coffee shop. There's also a pick-up area at the side of the store where customers can collect goods ordered online (to avoid delivery charges), and a streamlined checkout area, including new cash registers for quicker transactions.

As regional general manager John Murphy says, "Customers here are discerning, and I can't think of a better marketplace in which to test our most innovative thinking. We opened our first 24-hour pharmacies here, we ran the pilot of our Walmart.com site-to-store delivery service here, and we have tested many other innovations that were later introduced in stores around the country."

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