Wal-Mart: affordable and now, fun

Lower shelves and softer colours are designed to appeal to women

Shopping at Wal-Mart always means low prices, but it’s not known as a feast for the senses. Some say the interior design doesn’t so much whisper “linger awhile” as shout “load up your cart and get out.” But last week, the company unveiled a new look to help change that. Two supercentres in Bentonville, Ark., debuted new interiors designed to heighten the store’s appeal to women (who make up 75 per cent of its customers), help shoppers find what they want quickly, and position the store as “affordable fun” in a sinking economy.

Gone are the rows of sky-high shelving and aisles jammed with packing crates. Instead, curvy turquoise- and butternut-coloured kiosks appear to float in minimalist spaces. The new displays are also lower, so that customers can navigate the stores more easily.

Wal-Mart’s Canadian stores won’t sport such a drastic makeover, but spokesman Kevin Groh says they will feature better signage and spruced-up shelving. The health and wellness sections and in-store pharmacies have been revamped to project more of a “professional drugstore feel,” sometimes with walled-off consultation areas. The exteriors are being redesigned as well in some locations, moving from dark blue and grey to soft green or pumpkin. Even the product lineup is going more upscale with higher-end flat-screen TVs and new baby products to attract youthful shoppers.

In the U.S., where Wal-Mart has more than 4,000 stores, the company says it will focus on remodelling existing locations rather than opening new stores, at least for the time being. In Canada, where Wal-Mart has 310 locations, expansion plans will continue, along with subtle decor changes. Here, Groh says, low prices will still be the big draw. “But right after that, we want our customers to say, ‘Hey, this is a pretty nice place to shop.’ ”

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