Wagyu-mart? Inside Walmart’s Bold Plan to Lure Luxury Shoppers

Attention, shoppers: Walmart is entering its luxury era.

The big-box retailer, which is widely known for its reduced prices, is revamping over 800 of its U.S. locations in hopes of attracting a wealthier custom base, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. The new strategy to lure more affluent consumers includes everything from brighter lighting and the addition of mannequins to stocking more high-end products such as on-trend apparel from top fashion brands and specialty food items like prime cuts of meat.

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“This is about modernizing the brand and making it seem chic and cool,” Oliver Chen, an analyst at TD Cowen, told Bloomberg. “Walmart is good at basics and wants to be known for more than that—and sell more than that.”

Already, the company has started catering to high-earning customers. Yolanda Jones, a 48-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri, told the news outlet that she thought she “hit the jackpot” when she stumbled upon duck breast in her local Walmart. In Secaucus, New Jersey, consumers can find jars of red sauce from Carbone and top-of-the-line beauty products from Skingym and Mario Badescu. In terms of apparel, the stores have added labels including Reebok and US Polo Association.

Jordan Berke, a former Walmart executive, told Bloomberg that the retail giant has a history of studying consumer behavior to better grasp what luxury shoppers actually want—and the effort is clearly paying off. According to data from Placer.ai, households earning between $100,000 to $150,000 a year flocked to the retailer last year and were the second-biggest group of Walmart shoppers in 2023, which is largely a result of inflation.

This new venture isn’t the company’s first attempt at an upscale rebrand. About a decade ago, Walmart expanded its customer base after it began carrying more organic groceries. However, its foray into luxury apparel has mostly flopped, even after it rolled out a personal shopping platform and bought fashion brands such as Bonobos, Moosejaw, and Modcloth. In an attempt to bolster sales, Walmart hired Denise Incandela as executive vice president of fashion and private brands. Incandela, who’s previously worked for Ralph Lauren Corp. and Saks Fifth Avenue Inc., is hoping to find success with a younger generation of higher-income consumers by stocking stores with trendy blouses and jumpsuits. Gen Z shoppers are leading the luxury market, after all.

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