Wal-Mart Brings Mexican Experience North of the Border
By George Anderson
Wal-Mart, as a report by The Wall Street Journal’s Ann Zimmerman points out, has been the largest retailer in Mexico for five years.
With more Mexicans moving into the U.S., Wal-Mart is taking some of the lessons learned at its stores in that country and putting them into practice at stores serving recent immigrants as well as second and third generation Mexican-Americans who call America home.
Among the lessons learned in Mexico, said Celia Clancy, Wal-Mart’s general merchandise manager for women’s and children’s apparel, is that stores in that country devote more space to baby and children’s clothing than is normally designated in U.S. stores.
Style is also very important and Ms. Clancy is working with Wal-Mart de Mexico to bring clothing to U.S. stores that better reflect consumers’ fashion sense.
The reason for working with her Mexican colleagues is simple, said Ms. Clancy. “They do a better job in women’s apparel, serving a higher level of fashion,” she said.
Recent research shows Ms. Clancy and the rest of Wal-Mart have been largely successful in meeting the needs of Mexicans and other consumer groups with a Latino heritage.
A telephone survey of 500 Hispanic households conducted by the research firm NOP World found 36 percent chose Wal-Mart as their favorite store. (Target and Sears were tied for second with four percent.)
As to what factors are most important when deciding where to shop, respondents said, low prices (77 percent), convenient location (72 percent) and a wide range of merchandise (71 percent) were at the top of their lists.
Other factors deemed important were employees who spoke Spanish (54 percent), signage in Spanish (47 percent) and products relevant to Hispanic consumers (52 percent). Consumers in the study also said a wide range of payment options (47 percent) were important.
Moderator’s Comment: What do you see Wal-Mart and/or other retailers doing right when it comes to catering to the varied groups under the Hispanic demographic
umbrella? Where are the biggest opportunities for improvement? –
George Anderson – Moderator
- Retailer broadens Hispanic offerings – The Wall Street Journal/Arkansas
- Hispanic Americans Choose Wal-Mart as Favorite Store According to NOP World Study –
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5 Comments on "Wal-Mart Brings Mexican Experience North of the Border"
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At the moment Wal-Mart is the best at offering the most (versus Sears and Target) of what the Hispanic/Latino consuming audiences want: low prices, convenient locations, wide range of merchandise with heavier emphasis on baby goods and women’s merchandise, have Spanish-speaking associates, signs in Spanish, a sincerely relevant Spanish environment and a wide array of payment options. This is Wal-Mart’s “rocket science” and the text book is available to all competitors.
Wal-Mart seems to do a fairly good job of listening to their customers. There seem to be a number of bi-lingual employees present to help Hispanic customers. I haven’t noticed any signage in Spanish, which I think is wise. English signage encourages the “melt” in melting pot and is a good way to learn another language with little effort. When you see a sign “Apples” over the apple display in the produce department, the connection is fairly easy. Now if we could only find a system to insure that apples would actually be in stock (in Spanish or English) – that would be a triumph!
Actually Wal-Mart is very good at running their stores for the surrounding communities.
They are very real when it comes to regional products and making sure that the local community is happy with what they offer.
They are great on the food side but leave a lot to be desired in general merchandise.
I have worked for them in four states and they tend to forget that not only food but general merchandise has a community.
Wal-Mart is an ideal place to shop for recent immigrants who have limited budgets and don’t yet feel comfortable at other stores that don’t provide a familiar setting to them (signs in Spanish, Spanish speaking sales associates, etc….).
The challenge for Wal-Mart comes when that recent immigrant becomes a second or third generation immigrant who already speaks English, is aware of the competition, feels comfortable shopping around and wants to trade up. That’s where Wal-Mart starts to fall behind its competition. It needs to connect with that savvier shopper (immigrant or not) and provide a better shopping experience. And that’s done through better merchandising, not through supply chain efficiencies.
One thing Wal-Mart does right is just being themselves. The Mexican experience has helped them greatly in both culture and merchandising. Wal-Mart does not have to fake it. This is old news. Wal-Mart has been a solid fixture in Hispanic communities for several years. With the purchase of Amigo, I believe that Wal-Mart is now both the number one supermarket and number one general merchandise retailer in Puerto Rico. In both Mexico and Puerto Rico, having a job at any level at Wal-Mart is considered to be extremely prestigious, unlike the USA. It’s no wonder the loyalty among Hispanic shoppers is so high.