When we first heard that Walmart was going to start carrying Dell computers, we thought it was funny and a bit strange. Now The Street has done some anecdotal evidence gathering (our favorite kind) at Walmart, just to see how the Dell program is going. We’d have done it ourselves, but we live in a Walmart-free zone. Anyhow, it doesn’t seem to be going very well:
In recent visits to five Wal-Mart stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, however, TheStreet.com found a company still struggling to find its footing in the rough world of retail.
With competitors like Hewlett-Packard (HPQ – Cramer’s Take – Stockpickr – Rating), Toshiba and Acer well entrenched in Wal-Mart stores, Dell PCs appeared to be at a distinct disadvantage in the battle for shelf space and promotional material.
Demonstration units of Dell PCs were nowhere to be found, and the Dell PCs in stock varied from store to store. The salesman at one Wal-Mart store said they had received only a single Dell laptop, and having sold it a couple of weeks ago, was unsure when, or if, any others would be coming in.
Certain stores, on the other hand, featured what seemed like an ample supply of Dell desktop PCs on the shelves, with the machines sporting a compelling set of features and specifications vis-
-vis the competing offerings.
I would say Dell is probably two years behind the competition in terms of understanding the consumer marketplace. So there’s a lot of learning that has to go on,” says Samir Bhavnani, analyst at market research firm Current Analysis West.
Bhavnani says moving to Wal-Mart is the right move for Dell, and could help the company put PCs in consumers’ hands at a time when logistical glitches appear to be limiting Dell’s ability to fulfill some of its online orders.
Shhh, guys! C’mon! Don’t say “online orders” and “Dell” in the same sentence around here! It makes the readers angry!
At all five Wal-Mart stores visited, Dell was a no-show among the out-of-box laptops on display in the PC section, where consumers could inspect machines from the likes of Acer and Toshiba.
In a couple of stores, Dell had a special glass kiosk display promoting its laptops and the back-to-school theme. But instead of displaying one of Dell’s laptops, the kiosk simply featured an “actual size” picture of Dell’s laptop. The laptops were all in boxes locked in a cage underneath the display.
So much for the hands-on shopping experience.