Who Shops at Wal-Mart ... and Who Doesn't

A Look at How the Retail Giant Classifies U.S. Consumers

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Having hunkered down on its price-conscious marketing message of late, Wal-Mart Stores seems more content to let Wal-Mart be Wal-Mart, rather than reach out more to upscale consumers.
Photo: Robert Sullivan


Wal-Mart Shoppers Revealed

But it also appears to be stepping up interest in new formats to attract people who don't shop there as often. Last month, Wal-Mart began advertising for a merchandising executive to help develop and evaluate new formats, including possible U.S. acquisitions. And The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Wal-Mart has a San Francisco team looking into formats to counter U.K. rival Tesco's push into upscale convenience stores on the West Coast.

The moves follow the February appointment of Carter Cast, former CEO of Wal-Mart.com -- which skews considerably more upscale than the bricks-and-mortar mother ship -- to head U.S. strategy for the retailer. And it's not hard to notice that Wal-Mart's smaller brand, the more upscale Sam's Club, has been growing a lot faster than Wal-Mart of late.

Connecting the dots might lead one to conclude that Wal-Mart is giving up on winning more dollars from upscale consumers for its core brand, and is instead seeking new formats or brands to do the trick.

If that's the case, the retailer isn't saying. "We're always looking at new formats," a spokesman said, adding that the new executive could be looking at "changes to the existing box." The U.S. Wal-Mart Stores division remains, he said, in year two of a three-year strategic plan, but he declined to say whether Mr. Cast is strategizing about that plan or the next one.

So just who are Wal-Mart's key consumers today? And more importantly for new ventures, who aren't? Here are some clues left behind by a PowerPoint slide leaked to the Consumerist blog in March. The research document, created Feb. 1, and acknowledged by Wal-Mart as its own, breaks U.S. shoppers into seven segments -- three like Wal-Mart a lot; four, not so much. Fortunately for Wal-Mart, the lovers (56%) still outnumber the haters (or the indifferent) at 44%.
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