Wal*Mart Committing To DIY?

Wal*Mart and DIY

Wal*Mart, the world’s largest retailer, seems to be taking direct aim at important segments of the Do It Yourself market, if a recently opened 200,000 square foot Midwestern supercenter is a sign of things to come. In this latest version of its supercenter format, the basic hardware departments is now prominently identified as ‘Do It Yourself’ rather than with a small ‘hardware’ sign. Some adjustments have also been made in the merchandise assortments and presentations of products and categories. If the changes work out to management’s satisfaction, you can expect all sorts of changes to appear in Wal*Mart’s 3,500 US stores. As you can imagine, this will pose greater problems for existing hardware stores, home centres and, to a lesser extent, consumer-oriented lumber yards.

Re-designed stores

2,600 of Wal*Mart’s discount stores and supercenters have already undergone some renovations, like brighter lighting and wider aisles. The re-designed Wal*Mart embraces other changes designed to make the store easier to shop: (1) many fixture heights have been reduced to lessen the warehouse-look; (2) aisles are wider; (3) more benches are provided for customers to rest while they prowl 200,000 sq. ft. of floor space; (4) new departmental signing is much larger than in earlier units and is visible from many parts of the store, due to the lower fixtures and larger hanging signs; (5) signs for departments and sub categories are minimised, making the store appear less cluttered. One of the more interesting differences is the extensive use of skylights. These will undoubtedly reduce lighting costs for the store, as well as substantiate the company’s avowed commitment to reduce energy usage.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs

Wal*Mart has been one of the leading advocates of the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs, having sold far more than any other retailer. In this new store, the bulbs are given feature-end treatment at the front of the DIY department, and they are mass displayed in a compelling gondola presentation. In its redesign of the DIY department, Wal*Mart has brought the lighting category to the forefront of the department, and has also expanded product assortment. The light bulb category now would rival – and in many cases exceed – assortments offered in home centers, and it would certainly be more extensive than the offering in smaller hardware stores, though it does not include a compelling overhead lighting fixture display.

Refining the offer

Wal*Mart is concentrating on several basic categories in an effort to refine the department’s merchandise assortment. This includes paints, light bulbs, toilet seats, limited faucets, as well as basic hand and power tools. Minimal offerings of door locksets, fix-it hardware, nails, screws, cordage, etc. will pose no threat to conventional retailers, nor will other electrical and plumbing repair categories. Traditionally, Wal*Mart’s regular discount stores and its larger supercenters have devoted more space to hardgoods than any other mass merchant – and considerably more space than the nearest competitor, Target. In three supercenters opened in the last three years in Indianapolis, IN, the area allocated to the category remained the same at about 9,000 square feet. This does not count lawn & garden products in the store’s garden center or housewares and cleaning supplies which are also merchandised nearby. The DIY merchandise is, however, adjacent to automotive supplies, which occupy another 1,000-1,500 square feet. It is close to the sporting goods section, another line of interest to males. Wal*Mart is opening more than 80 new stores in March, so the new DIY department will have an impact in several U. S. markets. If sales in the department pick up, one can expect the new signing to be retrofitted into many more stores across the country an on an accelerated basis.