The world’s largest retailer did well despite its disappointing performance on Black Friday. According to Retail Forward, a Columbus, Ohio-based market research firm, 60 percent of all shoppers looking for gifts visited Wal-Mart and one-fifth of those consumers made purchases. While Wal-Mart cut back on discounts at the start of the holiday season, it quickly recognized its mistake and surprised observers with its agility. “Wal-Mart is a quick learner,” said Steve Spiwak, economist at Retail Forward, referring to the chain’s decision to crank up promotions in December. “Clearly Wal-Mart was able to make a good comeback.”
This story first appeared in the January 13, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED APPAREL AT WAL-MART*
All: 46 percent; downmarket: 52 percent; middle market: 50 percent; upmarket: 38 percent
Wal-Mart’s downmarket customers are clearly more comfortable with giving gifts of apparel from the store than upmarket customers, which Retail Forward describes as having household incomes greater than $75,000. Middle market shoppers, according to Retail Forward, have household incomes between $22,500 and $75,000, and downmarket shoppers are described as those with household incomes of less than $22,500.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED TOYS AT WAL-MART*
All: 46 percent; downmarket: 42 percent; middle market: 45 percent; upmarket: 54 percent
Wal-Mart cut back on discounts in November and consumers punished the chain. When the company got promotional in December, shoppers responded, especially the upmarket crowd. Wal-Mart’s aggressive pricing has taken a toll on toy retailers such as F.A.O. Schwartz and K.B. Toys, which were pushed into bankruptcy.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED DVDS/CDS AT WAL-MART
All: 38 percent; downmarket: 38 percent; middle market: 38 percent; upmarket: 42 percent
Upmarket shoppers opted for DVDs, CDs and toys at Wal-Mart once the chain’s low pricing in relation to other stores became evident and gave them a compelling reason to buy.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED OTHER PRODUCTS AT WAL-MART
All: 27 percent; downmarket: 30 percent; middle market: 25 percent; upmarket: 26 percent
Wal-Mart did well with its core downmarket and middle market shoppers. Sixty-eight percent of the first group spent $164 or about half their total gift budget of $369 at Wal-Mart during the holiday season. Middle market shoppers spent $183 out of a total $673 at the chain.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED FOOD-RELATED PRODUCTS AT WAL-MART
All: 22 percent; downmarket: 28 percent; middle market: 22 percent; upmarket: 20 percent
Retail experts said that as Wal-Mart ratchets up its food business, other categories in the store are becoming less attractive to consumers. In December, the company said sales of food exceeded sales of general merchandise.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED CONSUMER ELECTRONICS AT WAL-MART
All: 17 percent; downmarket: 18 percent; middle market: 17 percent; upmarket: 19 percent
Wal-Mart has been hurting sales at electronics stores such as Best Buy, which managed only a modest 2.5 percent sales gain in December. After Wal-Mart, consumers listed retailers that offered the best deals for holiday gifts in the following order: Target/Target Greatland/Super Target, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Toys “R” Us, Sears and Kmart/Big Kmart.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED HOME FURNISHINGS AT WAL-MART
All: 14 percent; downmarket: 15 percent; middle market: 15 percent; upmarket: 11 percent
Wal-Mart has been enticing more affluent consumers and improving its home furnishings offerings, although off-pricers such as T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s offer high-end merchandise at deep discounts.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED JEWELRY AT WAL-MART*
All: 9 percent; downmarket: 11 percent; middle market: 9 percent; upmarket: 6 percent
Upmarket shoppers, who can afford to be picky about baubles, shopped at department and specialty stores and jewelry stores, said Retail Forward’s Spiwak. They spent $200 at Wal-Mart on gifts this past holiday season, about one-fifth of their total $1,057 budget.
- SHOPPERS WHO PURCHASED SPORTING GOODS AT WAL-MART*
All: 9 percent; downmarket: 6 percent; middle market: 10 percent; upmarket: 9 percent
Most consumers who shopped at Wal-Mart for holiday gifts had positive assessments of the promotions and sales. The price deflation in the sporting goods category that’s been occurring for several years has been partly blamed on Wal-Mart’s cut-throat prices.
SOURCE: RETAIL FORWARD, JANUARY CONSUMER OUTLOOK; *INDICATES A TIE