Sometime early next week when you walk into the electronics section of your local Wal-Mart, you're likely to notice some changes.
More big name brands of TVs, Blu-ray players, smartphones, and other gadgets will begin to populate the store shelves as the retailing giant tries to expand its reach and customer base even further. The new products will include the latest in TV technology, meaning displays with LED backlighting and Internet connections, Web-connected Blu-ray players, and home networking equipment. There's also going to be more emphasis on getting the trendiest smartphones from carriers on the first day they're available elsewhere, and more accessible mobile broadband plans.
Wal-Mart isn't an underdog in many categories, but in electronics, it's far from being the category leader. Best Buy, whose revenues in 2009 totaled $45 billion, is the largest seller of consumer electronics. Wal-Mart beefing up its gadget offerings is likely part of an effort to play a little catch-up with Best Buy. In 2009, Wal-Mart's electronics sales were $33 billion, or 13 percent of its $258 billion overall revenue.
Wal-Mart, of course, has plenty of things going for it that Best Buy doesn't. Its reach is extensive, and when the recession hit, Wal-Mart was able to take advantage of many people's freshly discovered frugality. Another thing that happened is technology has become essential to a lot of daily activities. As things like computers and TVs become must-haves for all demographics and not just the geeky early-adopter set, Wal-Mart is well-positioned to make even more sales of gadgets. … Read more