Walmart's Merchandising Shift Has Five Brands Dancing in Aisles

Change in Project Impact Strategy Is Paying Off for These Household Favorites

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Walmart's much-talked-about Project Impact isn't dead, but the merchandising strategy that knocked thousands of items off the retailer's shelves and cleared the aisles of promotional merchandise over recent years is finished.

That, combined with moves to give regional and store managers more power over what their stores carry and how merchandise gets displayed, stands to have a major impact on a host of marketers over the next year. The brands and players at right are among the immediately identifiable winners, though many of the category resets that will add back thousands of items to Walmart's shelves won't take place until early next year.

While much discussion around Bentonville and nationwide among Walmart suppliers has written off Project Impact as a goner, the reality is less dramatic, more like an amputation. The program to reinvigorate growth at Walmart always focused on 10 words. Seven remain operative. Three -- referring to the "Win, Play, Show" merchandising and assortment strategy -- have been tossed out of the lexicon, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The first four of the remaining ones: "Save Money. Live Better" refer to the slogan adopted in 2007 from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., along with the redesign of the chain logo.

The next three words: "Fast, Friendly, Clean" remain in the Impact dictionary as well. Those refer to efforts to improve the store environment and shopping experience and fall into the area new Walmart U.S. CEO William Simon formerly ran and which appears to have gained considerably more power in the new order. What's gone are "Win, Play, Show," in which Walmart reduced assortments widely and often let price leadership over competitors narrow or disappear entirely in the "Play" and "Show" categories. Reversal of that, along with return of merchandise to aisles, or so-called "Action Alley," is having the biggest, well, impact on brands. Among the beneficiaries so far, according to people familiar with the matter:

HEFTY ONEZIP:

This brand, along with Glad, got eradicated from the food-bag aisle after a Walmart category review last year. Starting in April, it got a small amount of space back, and more recently it's fully regained its shelf space.

PAMPERS:

P&G Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald on an earnings conference call last month lavishly praised the shift to Mr. Simon at Walmart, and later noted that Pampers would be among the brands likely to benefit from "some of the changes in the retail environment we've talked about." Since Pampers isn't distributed at Costco or big dollar chains Dollar General and Family Dollar, Walmart takes on added importance for the brand. It's one reason P&G is widely believed to "over-index" at Walmart, and why it should broadly benefit from increased display space at the giant retailer.

WISK:

This detergent brand had been booted from retailers in the recent years and hanging on to distribution in only around 10% of Walmart stores. Timing proved fortuitous, as Wisk was planning a formula upgrade and major marketing push for August just as Walmart was relaxing its assortment stance. The result is full national distribution for Wisk.

ELMER'S GLUE:

Timing is everything, and the decision to open up "Action Alleys" again in many stores just in time for back-to-school season put this staple of the season in high-traffic areas. As many store managers and marketers were scrambling to find merchandise to put into the expanded displays, Elmer's was ready, saving what had been feared would be a down quarter because of diminished display space.

CHEX MIX:

A reset of the snack section recently has brought the item-count for this General Mills brand from an Impact-reduced three up to eight.

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