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Amid Social Distancing, Walmart Sees an Interesting Sales Trend

By Daniel B. Kline - Mar 27, 2020 at 2:51PM

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It's probably not what you think it is.

Americans have been adjusting to a new normal as tens of millions of people are suddenly being compelled to work from home. Among other changes, people who rarely had to communicate via videoconferences now have to do so regularly.

That has led to a surprising change in purchasing patterns at Walmart (WMT -0.32%). Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs Dan Bartlett explained what is happening on Yahoo! Finance Live on Thursday.

The exterior of a Walmart.

Walmart has seen an odd shift in consumer behavior. Image source: Walmart.

What are people buying?

"In one of your previous segments you were talking about people with Zoom, and doing those types of conferencing: We're seeing increased sales in tops, but not bottoms," Bartlett said. "So, people who are concerned, obviously, from the waist up."

It sounds silly, but people who appear on video conferences generally are only seen from the waist up. Of course, it's never a good idea to be too casual in case you do end up on camera showing your entire outfit.

"These behaviors are going to continue to change and evolve as people get accustomed to this new lifestyle, if you will. And we're able to accommodate that, both online and in our stores," he added.

A new reality

This sales trend raises a lot of questions. What were people wearing to work before the coronavirus? Do people feel a need to dress better online than they would in person? What are consumers going to do with their half-outfits when this ends?

What this particular trend shows is that consumer demand patterns may shift in areas beyond food, household items, and other staples. It doesn't really make sense to buy new half outfits, but people are doing it and retailers may have to shift how they stock their apparel departments to meet changing demand.

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Zoom Video Communications and recommends the following options: short May 2020 $120 calls on Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Stock Quote
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