Archive for March, 2009

Wee Sighting of Walmart’s New Great Value

Posted in Blogroll on March 29, 2009 by nmb

We’ve been anxiously awaiting signs that Walmart’s new and improved Great Value private label program is hitting stores.  As of yesterday, the old stuff was out in force in all of the existing categories; however, we spotted a wee glimpse of one out of eighty expansion products (tantalizing boxed pizza pic below) that no doubt will appear before the core items can get outta there.  I can’t imagine anything more difficult than fully transitioning a multi-category food program comprised of over 5,250 products into new formulations and packaging . . . (well, except maybe attempting to build out a fresh and packaged food program that will rival Walmart’s but we’ll save Target’s food forays for another blog). 

Look for our before and after shots as the program builds out. 

P.S.  Question for you . . . Does it matter that two Walmart store managers (A+ stores) had no idea that Great Value, the largest food brand in the country in both sales and volume, is being reinvented and due in their stores any day?  I ask this seriously. Maybe it doesn’t matter so long as they execute flawlessly.  Is it important that store-level employees are clued into upcoming brand transitions and product launches?  What are the advantages?  Could it ever be a bad thing? 


Great Value's clean, crisp pizza packaging



Hey Fast Fashion, Don’t Out-do Yourself!

Posted in Blogroll with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2009 by nmb

Forbes recently called the European fast-fashion retailers that have hit our shores “America’s favorite foreign retailers,”  implying that H&M, Zara and the like are an exception to the current recessionary rules. The fact is that they too have struggled in the current retail climate (even as some U.S. specialty retailers such as Urban Outfitters have flourished) and, while their operating models have given everyone in the fashion business a run for the money, I’m not sure that these advantages will be sustainable.

Interesting that the Forbes article was published at about the same time that Liz Claiborne announced that it is going to begin outsourcing its manufacturing to Li & Fung,  particularly since Liz’ single fast fashion retail holding (and competitor to the European disruptors), Mexx, is said to be on the chopping block! Liz is going in the exact opposite direction of its fast-fashion competitors (though in lock step with the major retailers that are at once the brand’s competitors and its customers). It will be interesting to see if they somehow “win” with this contrarian strategy.

The fast fashion model of complete process and inventory ownership, from design inspiration through to retail sell-through, has been a killer advantage; one that has thrown a wrench in the traditional fashion calendar, compromised the relevance of the catwalk to retail floor journey and set an impossibly high performance bar for other apparel retailers. After all, these vertical retail machines can get designs interpreted (from the runway shows, of course), executed, produced and sold at an astounding speed. The mega cost savings realized from their highly efficient operations help offset the expense of airing new designs to stores; providing yet another speed-to-market advantage. Alliances with celebrities and well-known designers create excitement in the stores and keep the assortments from getting too generic.

I do wonder though if the demise of the very fashion system that these retailers have compromised will in the end cause them problems. If there is no system to buck and outperform (or if that system continues to conform to the new standard they have set), where will they be? “Fast” and “fashion” are fast becoming table stakes!

Twas the Hype Before Twilight: BlogTalkRadio Hits Bentonville

Posted in Blogroll on March 20, 2009 by nmb

Who knew that crude and geeky online bulletin boards would breed the blog and then spawn MySpace, Facebook and the micro-blogging hub, Twitter? The explosion of social media has enabled and egged on previously-disconnected throngs eager to share opinions, pics, academic thought, and Battlestar Galactica spoilers. Most of the audio-visual content in this dynamic world has existed in a non-live, time-shifted spectrum . . . until now. Enter, BlogTalkRadio, a platform that gives voice to brands and influencers while facilitating dynamic real-time interaction among those they seek to sway.

Alan Levy, founder of BlogTalkRadio, presented his evolutionary application here in Bentonville this week as part of the Bentonville Chamber’s ongoing vendor-focused education It wasn’t always bleeding-edge for Mr. Levy, whose vision started coming into focus two years ago, when he began “broadcasting” to a devoted audience of two (Mom and Sis). Not everyone was enamored of his holding forth; however (according to Levy, his wife has continued to boycott his radio programs to this day). Undeterred, he went on to forge an entirely new way to publish, consume, and share information through live interviews with everyone from industry experts to the occasional Sasquatch devotee (yes – Sasquatch shows are apparently alive, well and now stalking through the virtual “forest”)!

The upshot is that BlogTalkRadio’s platform takes information sharing from static podcasting to interactive conversations requiring only a phone and computer. The key criteria that Mr. Levy’s set forth early-on for the application were 1) anyone would be able to do it; 2)you could participate without downloading anything (I found this most novel, though not until he pointed it out); 3)people would be able to call into hosts with questions. Easy!

BlogTalkRadio now boasts more than 10,000 active hosts (thankfully, Mr. Levy didn’t mind passing the mic) and, a far cry from that first audience, more than two million visitors, one million unique, join every month to listen in. More listeners means more content . . . BTR feeds the monster via the 150-200 new shows in 75 categories that pop up every day.  Mr. Levy characterized his network as “the long tail at work” and the stats bear this out (we know that the long tail doesn’t ALWAYS work; sometimes it just stays long, thin and unprofitable!).

Major brands, such as Pepsico, Century 21 and Walmart (more on that later) have discovered the value of these live online conversations and are quickly leveraging their own branded channels on the network. There they can engage consumers, test new products, and build loyalty, all in the hope of achieving social media’s Holy Grail: going viral. 

Just as many have touted examples of Twitter’s truly useful application as an information lifeline during natural disasters, according to Mr. Levy, BlogTalkRadio is being used by a young Army soldier embedded in Afghanistan to broadcast his daily experiences . . . and by his bosses at the Pentagon who see it as a vital link for disseminating medical information. The reach is unlimited and certainly leaves plenty of room for creativity.

We’ve blogged and tweeted before about Walmart’s serious plays in emerging media (they aren’t dabbling, folks) . . . the retailer’s recent partnership with BTR to promote its Twilight DVD launch serves as a riveting case study on bringing promotional potential to full fruition at retail (and the movie and retail biz could use a bit of that right about now, doncha think?).

Whether you liked the movie or not, it is a bona fide sensation with the tween/teen set (and their guilty pleasured parents) with fandom unmatched by any property in recent years. Not leaving anything to chance (who? Walmart?), the BTR/Walmart duo turned the heat up on Twitter, Facebook fan Nings, and even the Walmart Elevenmoms to get the word out to any warm blooded connected teen and their mother about the live March 9th interview with one of the move’s stars, Taylor Lautner (that would be Jake . . . duh!). A mind-blowing 27,000 listeners around the world logged into the show and more than 46,000 additional listeners have accessed the program since (BTR projects that totals will eventually exceed 100,000). Industry pubs report that preorders for the Twilight DVD have set new records and Walmart claims a 250% increase in traffic to its website in the wake of the blitz. Um, probably not a stretch to assume that Walmart’s DVD sales for the movie have exceeded expectations and that those higher margin licensed product sales will provide a most pleasant afterglow. I’m thinking hotter than Robert Pattison (k . . . for those of you on the space station . . . that’s Edward Cullen…the movie’s hottie hero).

On the heels of the Twilight event, you can bet that Mr. Levy and his crew will be fielding calls from retailers and brands seeking mega-boosts for the shrinking number of properties they are willing to get behind in a big way.  In the meantime, look for more from from the Walmart/BlogTalkRadio partnership, and other BTR branded networks by visiting the site

P.S.  Do I hear the sound of NMB sharing our retail ramblings and edu-events to more masses? Stay tuned to a BlogTalkRadio channel near you.
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