Wal-Mart is getting more “intimate” with its customers. Part of Wal-Mart’s corporate makeover has involved increasing attention to scaling down the huge scale of its superstores. Company officials have stated that the retailer plans to build smaller supercenters in the future, perhaps responding to a preference of many shoppers for a smaller, less hectic and confusing shopping experience. Smaller stores are also more appealing environmentally, because they have a smaller footprint, waste less land, and use less energy. In Forest Park, Ohio, Wal-Mart has actually implemented the vision of a “smaller, kinder” Wal-Mart. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the existing Wal-Mart supercenter in Forest Park, Ohio has been cut from 220,000 s.f. to 127,000 s.f — 57% of its original size. The store, located on Smiley Road, has been remodeled and shrunk by 93,000 s.f. According to the Enquirer, the ‘new look’ at Wal-Mart includes: the corporation’s new one word logo, a concrete floor with fly ash to reduce the amount of that byproduct going into landfills; a roof loaded with skylights to reduce the cost of lighting; refrigerated cases that light up as shoppers approach; wider aisles and lower shelving; wood-grained kiosks to give displays a warmer feel; faux awnings along one whole wall above the bakery to give shoppers a better sense of place. Diagonal aisles lead grocery shoppers to nearby cosmetics and jewelry counters. Shelving is capped at 6 feet so shoppers can see product signs across the width and length of the store. Similar products are collected into zones. “We have a very focused and calibrated store,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We listened to our customers, listened to their feedback. We wanted to understand what their needs were and wanted an environment that was more intimate and created a convenient shopping experience.” Wal-Mart says the smaller superstore produces a larger average purchase per visit, and more satisfied customers. “What Wal-Mart has discovered is that 200,000 square feet plus isn’t what they needed. They can still sell just as much but on a smaller footprint. You can shave building and operation costs down significantly,” one spokesman at developer Phillips-Edison told the newspaper.
According to the Enquirer newspaper, this Forest Park store “may represent the future for hundreds of aging and even newer Wal-Mart stores built in suburban communities.” The smaller layout allows customers to shop more quickly, and is easier to walk around for older shoppers who will make up an increasing share of the population. The Wal-Mart spokesman would not confirm that the retailer was using this Ohio model as a prototype for future stores. “Will this be rolled out elsewhere in the region? I can’t answer that question,” the spokesman said. “What we do know is this: We’re seeing a lift in our scores for cleanliness, satisfaction and merchandising.” Readers are urged to email Wal-Mart customer service at http://walmartstores.com/ContactUs/Feedback.aspx with the following message: “Dear Wal-Mart, Congratulations on cutting down the size of your superstore in Forest Park, Ohio. The smaller footprint store is good for customers, good for the environment, and good for neighbors. It’s a wonder you didn’t think of this earlier. How about applying this same concept to the rest of your over-sized superstores in America? Think how refreshing it would be to have Wal-Mart — as part of its sustainability effort — announce that all of its superstores were being downsized to answer its customers need for an easier, more intimate place to shop, and in response to neighbors across America who don’t want a huge superstore tying up traffic and increasing crime in their community. Small is Beautiful, Wal-Mart. Keep getting smaller, as you did in Forest Park. It could even save you millions of dollars in legal battles against small town groups who try to keep you out. So ‘get smaller if you want my dollar.'”