Wal-Mart, whose shares have been relatively flattish and whose Q4 was just so-so, probably due to a little thing we like to call karma, is going with a new approach—taking the advice of Jim Cramer. Back in November, JC penned (what felt like) a 6,000 word article for New York on how much Wal-Mart sucks and what it can do it not suck. Basically, the advice was to become Target, who Jimmy apparently harbors an unrequited love for.*
What’s ailing Wal-Mart? People don’t mind shopping at a down-market, politically incorrect store, if the prices are low enough. That was always Wal-Mart’s game. But now the other guys have figured it out. A number of Wal-Mart’s competitors now offer similarly low prices and a better shopping experience. Take Target. Wal-Mart’s sloppy aisles, dowdy clothing, and junky presentation have all the charm of GUM, the grim old monopolistic chain of the former Soviet Union. Target, meanwhile, is a joy. And its in-house merchandise, the key to its bountiful profit margins, rivals the stuff you can find in much more expensive stores—at price points that still make you feel like you’re getting the deal of the century.
How can Wal-Mart turn things around? First, it has to acknowledge that the wheels have fallen off the Bentonville Bus. Then it has to bring in some savvy merchants from the outside and give them a real chance to improve the quality of the stores—the atmosphere, the merchandise, the service, everything—without raising prices.
But who ever thought the Waltons—or anyone—would listen to the old guy? The homeless guy on the way to your apartment tends to ramble on in a frenetic way every time you pass by him but that doesn’t mean you take his advice, does it? (Actually, this analogy doesn’t so much work for us, since we actually do listen to anyone who has his/her own bobble head. It’s pretty much the only litmus test we ever use). Anyway, W-M apparently was listening and will now be offering downloads of movies and TV shows from studios like 20th Century Fox, Disney, MTV Networks and television networks including Comedy Central and FOX.
Whether dangling titles like Crash (the version in which James Spader has sex at car crash sites, not the contrived Oscar winner) alongside ones like Something to Talk About and The Lizzie McGuire Show next to Family Guy-- on this newfangled technology called a computer, no less-- will help Wally World turn things around or not remains to be seen. However, we have to say that we’re pretty sure this new approach to be ‘hip’ could have been marketed a lot more effectively by erstwhile W-M ad exec Julie Roehm than by whatever vanilla-flavored flack replaced her. (Close-up of a man and a woman on a bed—Man: Are you sick and tired of setting up the video camera every time you nail your wife just so you have some good porn to watch later? Woman: Sick of worrying about the camera adding ten pounds when you star in your own porno? Now you can just hop on over to your computer and buy other people’s smut films-- thanks to Wal-Mart!)
*though, to be honest, who doesn’t? They’ve got Proenza Schouler for god’s sake!
Wal - Mart Launches New Movie, TV Download Service [Reuters]