Our local Wal-Mart is at it again…remodeling, revamping, restructuring or whatever they call moving everything to a different place and creating chaos in the meantime. I’m sure the ultimate plan is designed to make shopping more efficient and attractive for the customer…LOL…even I thought that was funny! The ultimate plan is to change the store layout to encourage customers to explore more of the aisles, discover more products, and SPEND MORE MONEY. There are research teams being paid to figure out how to do just that!
I’m not sure it really works. As a customer I base most of my purchases on my individual tastes and needs, recommendations of friends and family, television commercials, and online ads. I seldom buy something just because I notice it on the shelf. Today, because of the rearrangement of products, Gary noticed that Wal-Mart sells escargot. We still didn’t buy any! And I can’t say that moving ketchup over six feet makes it any more appetizing. Even some of the employees are questioning the “new plan” and whether or not it will be effective. In six months most of us will have the new layout memorized and be back to our old shopping habits.
On the other hand, some major stores are having major problems with their “brick and mortar” stores and will be closing many of them in the near future. For those of you who enjoy “retail therapy” and like to actually see, feel, and try on your clothing before purchasing it…be prepared for disappointment. Online is taking command of more and more customer loyalty. JCPenney, Sears, and now Macy’s may be difficult to find at your local mall.
As someone who generally hates to shop, I appreciate the privilege of sitting here in my pjs while ordering anything I need. But as a former Macy’s employee I also feel a bit of sad regret that the old shopping “experience” is gone. When I worked there in the 80s our customers enjoyed music played by a real person on a real piano, fragrance samples and chocolates passed out by stylishly dressed staff members, exquisitely decorated product displays, and attentive sales personnel. Shoppers could even arrive at the store on a special bus where they were served crackers, cheese, and champagne! I don’t think online shopping will ever rival that…but apparently it doesn’t need to do so. Most shoppers these days are concerned with convenience and price.
Wal-Mart may not have much to fear from online competitors. After all, where else can you buy a ham, a can of paint, a child’s suit, and a houseplant in the same shopping cart? (the actual contents of a cart ahead of mine one day) But there ARE other grocery stores out there and there ARE online stores that sell many of the same items, so I guess they feel an obligation to keep some of us happy. I’m not sure ripping up our local store and confusing everyone for the next twelve weeks is the way to do that…but I’ll stick around and see how it all turns out.
(The photo is me...on my way to work at Macy's.)