Dell Having Trouble Fitting In At Walmart?

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.

Sounds great.

Dell Stumbles at Wal-Mart
[The Street]
(Photo:Wesley Fryer)

Comments

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  1. gibsonic says:

    yes. buying a laptop is now equal to buying a toothbrush. However, I think there are still more options for toothbrushes.

  2. shiftless says:

    You only get a 1 year Warranty from Walmart and the only savings you get is in the shipping. Also, it is not as easy to upgrade.

  3. vitonfluorcarbon says:

    I’m not thrilled about Dell having me pay for customer service, or the fact that the last time I called I was connected with someone from India pretending to be an American named “Andy.” But, all that being said, I just recently purchased a low end laptop from Dell via mail order. It’s a nice machine, at a good price as near as I can tell -I’ve honestly had pretty good luck with the Dell’s I’ve owned (this is #5.) I’d much rather buy from Dell and wait for shipping than have to let Wal-Mart earn a single dollar from me. Having Wal-Mart in the mix will only force Dell to be an even bigger peice of do-do to “stay competetive.” Sell Dell at Brick and Mortar, but stay away from Wally World.

  4. Chicago7 says:

    I don’t get the advantage of a store, but maybe I know more about computers than others. Still, how much help are you going to get from a Wal-Mart clerk? Less than you’d get from “Andy” in India, I would guess.

  5. Roundonbothends says:

    Sanyo makes TVs that are sold “only at Wal-Mart.” It’s kinda fun to look them up on Sanyo’s website. The above statement and some very basic specifications, without any other hyperbole, is all you get. Compare that to the rest of the site – stuff that they consider profitable and maybe are proud of – and it’s a different story.

  6. gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

    I sell tons of Dell laptops and desktops at Wal~Mart. A lot of the sales made are to college students and families not interested in buying online I suppose. Anyways my store doesn’t have display models of Dell computers either because people are used to buying Dell’s online and online you can’t see a live display either. Makes sense to me. However, I can’t attest to the availability of Dell at other Wal~Mart stores, since my store and me in particular sell more computers than many of the other stores.

  7. MrEvil says:

    I think the only reason Dell has stayed out of Circuit City and Best Buy is because those stores want to sell only their extended warranty and want customers to use only their service…FireDog or Geek Squad. I really don’t think Dell is quite keen on giving up that much control. Not only that, but I reckon there’s some contractual obligations with the vendors Dell pays to provide on-site warranty service.

    With all the bad press the big boxes are getting, I don’t think Dell wants to have to bear any of the burden of Geek Squad or Firedog’s incompetence. Wal-Mart just wants big-ticket items that get people in the store so that they’ll buy stuff with a bigger margin.

  8. bdgbill says:

    You “live in a Wal-Mart free zone”??

    Where the hell is that? I do a lot of travelling through rural areas across the country and often see Wal-Marts where there are no McDonalds, Home Depot, Best Buy etc.

    I can’t think of anywhere in the USA or Canada that could be considered “Wal Mart Free”

    Someone should do a study to see which inhabited city in the USA is the farthest from the closest Wal-Mart.

  9. rmz says:

    @bdgbill: Chicago.

  10. rmz says:

    At least, that would be my guess. Chicago is the only big city I can think of that has a history of resisting Wal-Mart’s spread. Not entirely, but more than most cities.

  11. RedOrDead says:

    A search of Yahoo! Yellow Pages shows 2 Wal-Marts in the city of Chicago: one 7050 S Cicero Ave and one at 5401 W 65th S. The city of Detroit has no Wal-Marts.

  12. randomizer9 says:

    “…the kiosk simply featured an “actual size” picture of Dell’s laptop.”

    That’s gotta be one expensive picture to be enclosed like that.