News, Retail

Attention Walmart shoppers: Better lighting coming to an aisle near you

Black fry day: This shopper at a Walmart in Arkansas managed to find and purchase a set of cookware under the existing lights on Black Friday last November.

The world’s largest retailer, $482 billion Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores, is dealing with a decline in profits and foot traffic in its home country. So what’s new US CEO Greg Foran doing about it?

He’s going to fix the lighting, for one thing.

Foran took over US operations last summer, and has spent time visiting Walmart locations to try to get his finger on why, as Retail Dive has noted, fewer customers have been visiting, and why US profits dipped 2.1 per cent in the year ended Jan. 31 to $21.3 billion, on sales of $288 billion. (Same store sales declined for nearly two years until recently reversing, Fortune noted).

‘We want this year to be the year of improving our stores,’ Foran told investors earlier this month, according to a transcipt of his remarks . ‘So by the time we hit holiday season, our stores are clean, tidy, well merchandised and run by engaged associates. Today in the main, we’re not.’

Foran rattled off a number of measures Walmart can take. Among them, he said:

  • ‘We’ve got some opportunities in store layout and design. Both Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets have potential to be better adjacencies, flows, side lines, lighting even the temperature in some of our stores.’

Other measures have and will include improving fresh food, rectifying supply chain issues that have left shelves empty at some of Walmart’s 4,500 US stores, and cutting prices.

Foran also said Walmart will improve the integration of physical and digital channel. And he vowed to better leverage data to understand customer preferences.

‘We know that we’ve lost some of our muscle in building a customer relevant assortment and we’ve been slow in using data to help achieve this,’ Foran said.

‘I am pleased to tell you that this project is now well underway and we’ll roll it out sensibly and carefully over the next 18 months to 24 months. We’re establishing customer decision trees based on data about how our customers shop; building substitutability in loyalty tool to assist with choice; and driving disciplines around the design and building of modulus and store all of this and much more fits into the space.’

Walmart might want to follow the lead of fellow US retail behemoth Target, and deploy LED lighting-based data communication systems that follow shoppers around stores and deliver promotional offers and product information to their smartphones.

It would kill two birds with one stone: better lighting and better data. All to improve the customer experience.

Photo is from Wal-Mart Stores