The only thing worse than not knowing your customers is not knowing who you want your customers to be. This quote, from an MSNBC article (link below) says a lot:
Wal-Mart has struggled for months to appeal to both higher-income shoppers and low-price fans.
Walmart cannot have it both ways. Sure – there is a middle ground, but Walmart doesn’t appear as if that’s what they are targeting.
There are no K-Mart stores in South Texas anymore. They couldn’t compete because they had a mixed target – they tried to lure the low-income shoppers and the middle to upper-middle class customer at the same time. To keep things appealing to the middle class, prices rose too high for low income.
So it would be easy to blame Walmart’s woes on a temporary misunderstanding of their target audience. It would be easy, but it would be wrong. There are several reasons I don’t shop at Walmart:
- They have a horrible track record for how they treat employees.
- They have one helpful and friendly person working in each store – too bad they are the person that greets you and hands you a cart, and not the only person in the store (that nobody can find) that has the keys to the Video Game case – or the person that can help you find an appliance, or pair of shoes.
- The stores are lunatic-large. I don’t have all day to walk across your mega-store to find the six things I need. I won’t even get into the six bus-transfer tickets it took for me to get from the parking lot to the front door of the store.
- They destroy far too many trees in their quest for the maximum amount of earth-covering asphalt.
- If you don’t see a boxed item of what you want on a shelf, then forget it. The Walmart warehouses must be death chambers for employees – I have never had one of them go look for something that I wanted and have them return. Ever. They evaporate. I’m tempted to spend an afternoon in a store sending as many employees to the warehouse looking for things as I can, until eventually there are no employees left in the retail side of the store. I’ll open one cash register (Walmart customers won’t even suspect anything because this is commonplace) and just take cash for two hours. I doubt any employees would emerge from the warehouse (unless I timed it for the end of their shifts).
- There is nothing they can do to make me feel like I am doing business with a local business – bar selling franchises, I suppose. They are the new Microsoft, or the old AT&T – the company people are loving to hate.
I’m sure I’m being overly harsh to Walmart. I don’t like Super-Target stores much better. But I can’t forget how these chain stores got popular in the first place – they saved time (buy a variety of goods in one place) and money. They were convenient.
But walking through a 130,000 square foot store isn’t convenient, and it makes the few dollars you might save seem insignificant. Add to that the fact you have to walk two blocks to and from the car, and I just figure I’ll stick to small strip centers, mom-n-pop stores, and almost anyplace else I can just pull up right in front of the door.