Walmart Offering Fewer Products, Widening Aisles

Walk into any Walmart and you’ll see shelves upon shelves stocked with a wide variety of products in every shape and size. But that will soon change, as the retail giant begins a transformation of sorts by decluttering its aisles of excess items. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the big box store is taking steps to tame the stores’ sprawling inventory and organize its abundance of merchandise in a move to meet consumers’ tastes and turn a profit.

First up, the company says it will decrease the number of products it offers. So instead of having six different sizes of the same kind of ranch dressing, the particular condiment brand might just have two size options.

“It’s the same brand, exactly the same item, but it just comes in six different sizes,” Greg Foran, Walmart’s chief executive, tells the WSJ. “I look at that and I say to our team, ‘Do you really need six?’ The answer is we probably don’t.”

So far, the company says it’s cut about 2,500 items from its average 120,000-product inventory in stores.

The company also plans to display those fewer products in a different way, the WSJ reports.

Foran says that while Walmart will be dropping some inventory, those that remain in the stores will be showcased in wider aisles: 10 feet wide compared to the current four-foot pathways.

Additionally, the company is experimenting with several other inventory changes: restocking products during normal business hours, lowering shelf height near registers, and ditching some of the bin displays littered throughout the store.

Under the new stocking system, the company says it can cut down on reorders of products that are simply lost in the backroom, the WSJ reports.

The idea to lower shelves that hold gum, candy and other impulse products was made to give consumers a better view of the store from the front.

The WSJ estimates that the change could cost the retailer hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. But the company says it will mitigate those losses by adding other, more popular products like fresh produce to its inventory lineup.

“These are not willy-nilly decisions, these are decisions being driven by customer behavior,” Deisha Barnett, a spokeswoman for Walmart, says.

While the changes might seem subtle to consumers, the WSJ reports that hasn’t been the case for suppliers of the company.

The company reportedly sent out renegotiation letters to vendors and suppliers over the summer asking them to adapt to the retailer’s new processes.

So far, that’s been met with apprehension, as some large suppliers say they can’t afford to pay fees for selling products at the store or accept longer payment windows.

“All of the changes we are asking suppliers to make are to be true to our business model and everyday low prices,” Barnett tells the WSJ. “Change isn’t always easy. What we’re doing is what is happening across the industry.”

Wal-Mart Shrinks the Big Box, Vexing Vendors [The Wall Street Journal]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.