Walmart takes a new marketing direction…again

From a RetailWire discussion in early December: Walmart has engaged Michael Francis, formerly of Target and (more recently) JCPenney, to try steering its marketing in a more aspirational direction. Mark me as a skeptic about the hire and the strategic change, especially until Walmart successfully tackles its store execution issues:

Can a tiger change its stripes? Can Walmart successfully try to chase a more upscale, aspirational customer? I’m not so sure that trying to out-Target Target is appropriate to the Walmart brand, when it needs to do a better job executing its core strategy.

As to Mr. Francis being the right person for the job: His experience at JCPenney raises a huge red flag. He tried to turn a lower-moderate, promotional department store into something that its loyal customers categorically rejected. His decisions (in partnership with Ron Johnson) to eliminate sale pricing, to drop the company’s biggest private brand (St. Johns Bay), and so forth, had far-reaching consequences from which JCP is still trying to recover.

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