How consistent is Wal-Mart quality from store to store?
December 3, 2011 9:44 AM   Subscribe

In terms of merchandise quality, do Wal-Mart stores vary much from place to place?

Put another way: If I find a standard item at a WM store in Utah -- let's say its high-end men’s white long-sleeve dress shirt -- am I likely to find a shirt of equivalent quality at a WM store in Rhode Island?
posted by LonnieK to Shopping (5 answers total)
The closest one to me in downtown LA, has some great deals on organic produce, small-mill Montana wheat flour, and some other interesting foodstuffs. I can't say that I've scoped out many other SoCal ones, but friends in Louisiana tell me that there's good local products in theirs.
I'd think clothing and hard goods are probably universal. Or you can order online.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:52 AM on December 3, 2011

The short answer is no. At Walmart, a dress shirt is a dress shirt is a dress shirt. Produce is not a good example since it has a vastly different supply chain and expiration dates make it beneficial to find local suppliers. The majority of Walmart's durable goods inventory comes from the same suppliers regardless of the store location. In your dress shirt example, Walmart likely sources its private label shirts from a manufacturer in China to supply all of its stores. The vast quantity of shirts purchased by WMT produces the scale that results in low prices. It is less costly for Walmart to deal with a multitude of vendors.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 10:07 AM on December 3, 2011

I am going to disagree with Andy's and say that it has been my experience that Walmarts, even in a given city, can vary significantly in the kind of merchandise that they carry (same is true for Target). Basically, stores in lower income neighborhoods will carry far more lower end merchandise than stores in higher income neighborhoods. I see it in my city as well.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:47 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Walmart is famous for its company-wide IT inventory and supply-chain management, and has been known for some time to apply data mining at a pretty granular level. I think that broadly, Walmart products are similar, but they would certainly alter the mix of products at a given store to best serve the customer demographics.

From the horse's mouth, as it were:
Wal-Mart management established the goal of managing every individual store as if it were a single store chain. Wal-Mart believes that the key to attaining this optimum position means effectively anticipating the product demand profile for all products at each store, no easy task recognizing that Wal-Mart has 700 million unique store/item combinations to consider. By having the detail to analyze the seasonality of products at every location, Wal-Mart would be able to be store-specific when forecasting demand. Accurately predicting product demand is a complex process requiring an understanding of how different Wal-Mart stores behave, estimating the impact of upcoming local promotions, and factoring in each supplier’s ability to satisfy orders.
posted by dhartung at 2:02 PM on December 3, 2011

The question is about merchandise quality, not merchandise variety. If a Walmart in Utah carries men's white dress shirts, it will be this shirt. A Walmart in Rhode Island will carry the same shirt. Again, it is easier for Walmart to source the shirt from a single supplier instead of regional suppliers.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 6:49 PM on December 3, 2011

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