Shareholder Week at Walmart has come to mean a showcase of new products, most of them exclusives or private-label. This year's batch, presented in speed-dating style to the media in a Bentonville, Arkansas, hotel ballroom on Wednesday, has some particularly unusual entries.
In recent years, Walmart has focused increasingly on exclusives, temporary exclusives and private labels as the competitive landscape has shifted and more key competitors, such as Costco, Aldi, Kroger Co. and Trader Joes, gain ground based largely on strong house brands. Also, time has shown that the parts of the store growing fastest are those where national brands are less prominent. Walmart's strategy represents a shift from its historical focus on beating competitors based on better prices on national brands.
From jeans made out of recycled plastic bottles to bacon-flavored seaweed snacks, here are some of the goods consumers can soon roll the dice on at the world's biggest retailer.
This interactive plush toy plans to get to the U.S. market in July. (Amazon appears to be selling some already in the U.K.) It has the usual features that appeal to kids: fake, neony-colored fur, weird animal mashups, and big eyes. Pomsies is part of what Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Bratspies says will be a stepped-up toy effort in the wake of the Toys 'R Us liquidation.
"This thing is packed with interactive features," says Senior Toy Buyer Weston Teshima. This includes 50 possible reactions, including eyes that light up and a tail that can wrap around hands or hang from backpacks. Versions include Luna the Caticorn, a cat-unicorn.
And hey, says Teshima, if someone's kid wants a pet, this one has a definite plus: there's "no pixilated poop for you to pick up later."
Another piece of Walmart's toy strategy is Lock Stars, a Hasbro product that Walmart brought to market first. The collectible toys each have two keys that open a lock, two charms (one hidden inside the belly) and a mystery lock. It's the kind of inexpensive toy retailers hope will be swapped excitedly at school.
Safety 1st Riva Ultra Light Weigh Travel System
Billed by buyer Demetrious Moore as "the very first recyclable stroller made in the USA," the baby carriage comes in at just 18 pounds, has machine-washable fabric coverings and, Walmart says, can be folded up with one hand. But its biggest selling point, the retailer says, is that it's made from recycled plastic, mostly car seats, by Dorel Juvenile, exclusive to Walmart.
Recycled polyester in denim line
You can only save so much of the planet with a recycled/recyclable stroller, so how about recycled denim? When Walmart launched its new Time and Tru apparel line earlier this year, jeans made with recycled polyester were one of the bigger hits, says Patrick Tobin, senior women's apparel buyer. So, in the fall, recycled polyester will be part of the entire denim line.
"Utilizing our Reprieve recycled polyester, we're going to take 50 million recycled bottles out of the landfill this year," Tobin claims.
Nickelodeon Slime Green ketchup
Last year's hit food was Topickles Tropicals fruit-punch-flavored pickles, and buyer Amanda Sparks says Slime Green ketchup hitting stores Friday might be up next. "This is millennial moms' childhood right here in a bottle," she says.
Nilla Wafer and Cold Stone Creamery cereals
Remember that healthy eating trend? This isn't about that. Walmart noted a trend last year toward people eating cereal as a late-night snack, and convinced Post to bring back Oreo O's cereal, which became one of the category's top sellers, says cereal buyer Amanda Madrid. Now Walmart and Post are following that up with new products like Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding and Cold Stone Creamery Strawberry Blonde cereals.
Bacon-flavored seaweed snacks and hummus-based salad dressing
There's new stuff for the crunchy granola crowd, too. This includes O'Dang hummus salad dressing with a cold-press chickpea base in lieu of oil and Ocean's Halo bacon-flavored seaweed snacks.
Pit Boss Austin XL grill
The new Pit Boss Austin XL wood-pellet grill is like an outdoor Instant Pot, says senior buyer Brian Salmon: "You can set it and forget it." The retailer says it's bigger, hotter and heavier than prior versions, with two digital meat probes and a 31-pound hopper for slow cooking. It's also part of a line extension machine that includes 20-pound bags of pellets, spatulas, grill covers and a new line of Pit Boss spices coming in August.