Optimism, skepticism, confidence and concern are among the wide range of emotions shared by Walmart trading partners who participated in the Second Annual Supplier Survey conducted by Connecting Northwest Arkansas.
If they sound like a conflicted lot, it’s because working with any retailer is a challenging proposition, but when Walmart is involved attitudes toward the opportunities and challenges associated with the business relationship tend to be amplified. As a result, suppliers are optimistic that Walmart leadership is on the right track with the right strategies to restore growth and generally find merchandising decision-makers accessible and receptive to new ideas. However, they are skeptical that pursuit of those strategies will reduce their cost of doing business with the company or that initiatives agreed upon at the home office will be well executed at the store level. Suppliers are confident in their collaborative efforts with the company, their multi-channel understanding and the growth potential of Walmart International and Sam’s Club’s growth. Suppliers are concerned about an intense competitive climate in which they are striving to help Walmart execute its strategies while a range of world class operators are gunning for a larger share of Walmart’s pie.
Topping the list of competitive threats this year is the dollar store channel, mentioned by nearly 80% of respondents. The concern is justified considering Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree collectively operate nearly 21,000 U.S. stores whose product mix enjoys a high degree of overlap with Walmart. The same is true of second ranked competitive threat Target, mentioned by 56% of respondents. Target’s ambitious remodeling program, now 60% complete, has made the food, consumables and healthcare categories its fastest growers while aggressive pricing and 5% rewards program challenge Walmart’s ability to achieve meaningful price leadership.
Not far behind Target on the list of competitive threats was Amazon.com, mentioned by 48% of respondents this year compared with 30.9 last year. Amazon.com and Kroger switched places on this year’s list. Kroger was mentioned by more respondents this year than last year, 37% versus 33%, but escalating concerns about Amazon.com caused it to leap frog Kroger.
After dollars stores, Targ