Let's face it: Wal-Mart's
The store in Plano, Texas opens today, and it will feature pricey wine, high-end electronic gadgets, jewelry, an espresso bar, and yes, the aforementioned sushi bar. Forget the gun section -- it's yoga here. Anyone who likes to tinker with their cars would be barking up the wrong tree at the Plano store; it has a much smaller automotive section than your usual Wal-Mart. Although Wal-Mart's not planning on any similar stores, word has it that if certain items are hot, it will consider selling them in its stores in other upscale areas.
It's been no secret that Wal-Mart has been trying to polish its image, given Target's
Furthermore, it's been clear for a while that a very broad demographic is crazy about Costco
It seems to me that Wal-Mart has an uphill battle when it comes to ratcheting up its cool appeal, though. This is an old company that just about everybody knows (except, apparently, for Paris Hilton, given her infamous question regarding whether it made walls). It has excelled because of, well, cheapness. While higher-income customers may grace it with their presence for some items, I'm not convinced that it will be easy to push certain Wal-Mart products, like apparel and home decorations, to that demographic. In addition, I can't help but think that a good percentage of upscale shoppers might avoid the retailer as a matter of principle.
Wal-Mart certainly needs to work on growth initiatives, as Fool contributor Stephen Simpson pointed out last quarter -- that's why it's important for it to eye China expansion and work on its controverisal image. This is proof of yet another bid to lure new customers to spend more. The new Plano store may be an experiment, but it makes it clear that Wal-Mart is aware of its challenges.
Alyce Lomax owns shares of Urban Outfitters but holds no shares of any other company mentioned.