Thursday, November 30, 2006

Case Study: Why WalMart Lost Sales This November

WalMart today posted a 0.1% decline in sales for November, their first ever decline in nearly 10 years. Stock analysts report WalMart is losing out to Target and other competitors. Below are my observations and perhaps a reason why WalMart lost this round. I've forwarded these observations to their corporate office so they have some feedback on what happened.

My WalMart Experience
I went to my first Black Friday ever -- waking up at 5:00 am to look at the stores in my area. Places I looked at were WalMart, Target, and CompUSA. My main goal was to secure an XBox 360 Premium console, home theather, LCD TV, and a digital picture frame.

WalMart advertised online that they were selling XBox 360 Premium systems for $399 with a free $50 gift card. The ad stated there were at least six consoles per store. Believing that this ad was true, I went to WalMart exactly at 5:00 am and was the second in line for the XBox 360 -- but then the bad news, they didn't have any in stock! The employees and acquisitions manager didn't even know about the promotion.

Suffice to say, I was disappointed at WalMart, one of the most aggressive retailers in the world, known for its ability to be effecient and delivering products to the masses. One of the most important sales days of the year, my local WalMart failed miserably.

My CompUSA Experience
The CompUSA store in my town is relatively new, they've been opened less than two years. After being disappointed at WalMart, I went to CompUSA and asked if they had XBox 360's. My business contact who I usually buy from says he was told there was no more. As I came out disappointed again, another manager overheard what I was saying and said there were two at the back. I waited for a few minutes and finally got my XBox 360! I looked around for other sales but really found nothing -- they apparently opened on Thursday night (Thanksgiving) and sold most of their products. So I went off to Target.

My Target Experience
Target opened at 6:00 AM. An hour after other retailers. This tactic seemed to work because I was able to go to other retailers (WalMart/CompUSA) and still had the time to go to Target. As I parked in the parking lot, there was a huge line of people gathering outside the door. I told myself, "I guess I better wait at 6:15 AM when everyone clears out."

When I finally came in, the whole place was packed, but I was able to move around without any problem. I looked for their sales and for some odd reason they moved all of their electronics that they advertised for sale away from the electronics section. Why? Nobody knows. Perhaps space concerns.

I found one employee who was refilling other inventories and I asked him where the electronics were. He said, "They're in the infants section." And when I looked there, there were LCDs, home theater systems, DVD players, etc. all stacked up. Tons of inventory available!

I bought what I wanted and didn't have to really "fight" for it. They had enough for everyone it seems.

Lessons Learned

1. Target was clearly the winner with my money. They advertised items and they were in stock.

2. CompUSA was in the middle ground. Better communication of what's in stock would help. Still, I was happy to get an XBox 360 from them.

3. WalMart was the clear loser. They didn't get a penny from me because they didn't have what they advertised. Employees and managers also didn't know about the online promotions/advertisements.

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