Two of the countries largest retailers, Walmart and Sears, are giving two very different representation of where we are in this “great recession”. There are many factors pointing to recovery, but the consumer-scape is sending a mixed signal, or is it?
For the last quarter, Walmart reported a $13 billion cash flow, while Sears reported a loss of over $100 million. Walmart has continued a strategy of improving the shopping experience by making their stores less cluttered, cleaner, and easier to navigate – and spending a pretty penny to do so, something close to $9 billion dollars. Sears, on the other hand, has neglected their stores and have only invest about $200 million this year into improving (or just maintaining) their locations.
So are consumers spending or not? Or is Walmart just eating it’s competition alive? Walmart has continued to build value, value that’s not relying on just low prices. They have rolled out efforts to bring value to every part of their stores including checkout line speeds by upgrading to the latest point-of-sale technologies, increasing spending on customer service, renovating store layouts, and implementing a new standard of cleanliness. The data is showing that consumers are spending again, but they are only going to spend where they get value.
Sure, Sears may not have the best price structure, but it’s clear that consumers won’t always be solely price-minded. They’ll still want to shop in a nice facility that is well-maintained, has a reasonable level of customer service, and will provide the products they’re looking for a the right price. Value is about having the whole package, not just one piece, and finally Walmart is investing in all aspects of their business, which is clearly producing results.