Chain Store Age
PLANO, Tx. - Wal-Mart Stores opened a first-of-its-kind laboratory store in Plano, Texas, to see if it can entice consumers to shop at the store for more than everyday essentials. Targeting upscale shoppers, the 203,091-sq.-ft. Wal-Mart Supercenter carries about 1,500 premium items not normally found in typical Wal-Mart stores and includes the company’s only sushi shop. It features an expanded selection of high-end electronics, fine jewelry and produce, and carries hundreds of types of wine ranging up to $500 a bottle. Employees sport a more polished look, wearing a navy polo and khaki uniform instead of the standard aprons and vests. Other attractions include a Wi-Fi café (with two computers set up for public e-mail access) and a kiosk in the meat department that prints recipes and shopping lists. In another first for Wal-Mart, the store also offers baggers at the checkout.
The Plano store doesn’t sell fabric or guns and it carries less fishing gear, camping goods and automotive products than a standard Wal-Mart. Instead, the space is devoted to items like fitness equipment, patio furniture and hot tubs. Wal-Mart says it won't duplicate this format anywhere else. However, if some of the featured specialty items sell successfully, those products could be added to other stores in affluent communities.
The look of this Wal-Mart is much different than its other stores, with many departments having a specialty-store look (women’s apparel has its own checkout). Dressing rooms have been redesigned for more privacy.
"We created a store with departments that have their own special look and feel. We don't want the entire store to look the same," Wal-Mart senior analyst and project manager Ryan Lincks told The Dallas Morning News. Greeting cards are in wooden shelves with halogen lighting, making them easier to access. Wood floors set off departments from concrete pathways, and aisles are 18 inches wider than usual, while the book section, found on cherry wood shelves, is designed to tie in with the company's Web site. "We're trying to make the connection more in this store to Walmart.com,” Lincks said.
The Dallas Morning News also reported that the home goods and furniture area feels more like a Target than a Wal-Mart, while window treatment section is more reminiscent of Pottery Barn. The store also has a quieter shopping experience with fewer PA announcements, no in-store radio and softer-sounding cash registers. Although many Plano residents initially opposed the store, most are now focusing on what it could do for the community.