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[12 comments]

Walmart to showcase 'women owned' labels

June 30, 2014

In a new partnership with the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Walmart plans to sell merchandise featuring a unique logo identifying the goods as produced by women-owned businesses.

The move is part of Walmart's Global Women's Economic Empowerment initiative, launched in September 2011. At the time, Walmart committed to source $20 billion from women for its U.S. business and to double sourcing from women internationally by the end of 2016.

In a statement from WBENC and Walmart, MiKaela Wardlaw Lemmon, senior director of Women's Economic Empowerment at Walmart, said the retailer hopes the new logo will "make customers around the world more aware of great products from women-owned businesses, and help these women continue to grow their businesses."

Walmart pointed to a recent survey it conducted that showed that 90 percent of female customers in the U.S. would go out of their way to purchase products from women, believing they would offer higher quality.

The statement further noted that women-owned businesses contribute over $1.3 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy and women are responsible for over 80 percent of the consumer decisions globally. Creating awareness of these products can result in sales growth, increased consumer knowledge and loyalty, the statement said.

Women-owned businesses that are WBENC and/or WEConnect International certified will be eligible to display the logo on their product packaging. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, lingerie brand Smart & Sexy and Maggie's Salsa are among the women-owned businesses that plan to adopt the logo.

The Consumerist questioned whether a "women's-owned" label would support sales similar to the way "organically certified" or "locally sourced" labels do.

FINANCIALS:     [NYSE:WMT] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

How appealing do you think the "women owned" label will be to Walmart's customers? Should other retailers support the effort?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How appealing do you think a "women owned" label will be to consumers?

Comments:

I think it's just a lateral move and the typical Walmart demographic shopper won't really care. How many of us male consultants have created a shell corporation subsidiary that is 60 percent owned by our spouses (if you are married to a minority you get bonus points) so we can bid on government projects?

I would expect Walmart to be a leader on this since, for the most part, Walmart is a woman-owned business. The largest shareholders are Walmart widows and daughters. As for appeal, I suppose every special stamp on a product appeals to somebody.

If having this label really helps sales, Chinese manufacturers will find a way to get the label on the product. In my opinion it's nothing more than putting "new and improved" on the label, or the "certified healthy" food endorsements on sugar cereals because there might be a small amount of whole grains inside.

Then I wonder about all the real women-owned businesses that won't pay dues to the WBENC and/or WEConnect International to get certified. How will shoppers actually know this is a meaningful certification, or is it like getting a Harvard Law degree on eBay? Will it get drowned out by all the other similar type certifications? The U.S. Trade & Commerce Research Institute recently awarded me with the "Excellence in Commerce" award. As soon as I pay them $588 they will mail it to me and send out a press release.

David Livingston, Principal, DJL Research

There are scenarios that evoke loyalty among certain targets. "Women owned" will definitely appeal to women. Just as women are influencing U.S. elections to a greater extent, female shoppers always vote with their dollars.

It would be great to see the statistics that relate to "Made in the U.S.," "Made from recycled materials," etc. Marketers will have to be sensitive and recognize the point at which the promotion of reasons for buying their brand move too far away from the product's message and become a story about the manufacturer.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

A "women owned" label would be certainly appealing. However, Walmart needs to assure the quality of the products to keep the label's promise, and needs packaging which easily distinguishes the product.

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Shilpa Rao, Practice Head - Merchandising, Tata Consultancy Services

This idea can be taken one step further.

Over a decade ago, for example, Feargal Quinn—then owner of Superquinn in Ireland, perhaps the greatest supermarket chain I've ever seen—programmed his registers so that products sourced in the Irish Republic were called out and subtotaled on the register tape.

The same could be done for any split, i.e., locally-produced products, minority-owned businesses, etc.

The only issue I have is that there are a number of causes and therefore a number of potential identifiers. In the Superquinn example, Feargal's approach was the Irish equivalent of "Made In America" and therefore not so controversial. But, by identifying one set of businesses; i.e., women-owned, Hispanic-owned, African American-owned, etc., one runs the risk of upsetting everyone else. So, what could have been an enticement to buy suddenly becomes a reason to boycott.

The bottom line, I guess, is that any of these labels or identifiers needs to be presented in a broader, less competitive context.

Almost every demographic group I can think of has some kind of economic initiative so if you (as a retailer) are going to do for one, you should be prepared to do for all.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

As with its Made in the USA initiative, the women-owned businesses labeling program will generate positive press for Walmart. The question, though, is whether these types of values-oriented initiatives will resonate with the retailer's more price-focused shoppers. For some they will, but Walmart will need to help guide these shoppers to the products—a daunting task given the vast amount of SKUs in a single Supercenter.

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Kelly Tackett, Research Director, Planet Retail

Walmart is essentially about price. End of story.

'seasar'

The "women owned" label will be appealing to a portion of Walmart's customers but less so than "low price," or the perception of low price. As Ryan noted, that sets up the need to recognize most all other constituencies to prevent censure.

One wonders what would occur if Walmart were to promote a "men owned" label. My guess is that it would kill this type of special target marketing. This age we live in has increasingly marketed demographics prominently into our All-American society.

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Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

I've discussed with casino odds makers how having a woman owner, women trainer or woman jockey in a major horse race affects the horse's odds. Occasionally female horse will win a major stakes races dominated by male horses. There is a psychological affect with amateur women bettors. They will drive down the odds on horses ridden by women riders or female horses. Although it has no bearing on the outcome of the race, it certainly affects the payouts. In the end, smart money is wagered on probability not sexual identity. The least important title is female owner. Women race fans are more impressed with Rosie Napravnik riding rather than if Jenny Craig is the owner.

The same psychological affect could hold true in merchandising. Depends on the product. If Hooters suddenly became a woman owned and promoted restaurant, would women eat more wings? The message needs to match the product. Women owned is a rather empty designation. Most women-owned businesses I am aware of are those inherited with the day to day operations done by males. A more meaningful title should be set aside for women owned, founded, and operated.

Hy Louis, Tea buyer, Wong Imports

Not sure I'm seeing the Walmart demographic as paying that much attention to a "Women Owned" label. That said, there are always those who will support a cause and there are always those who will do just the opposite.

Can't see investing my 2 cents in this one.

Lee Kent, Brings Retail Executives Together to Meet.Learn.Profit, RetailConnections

I don't know, feels at least 20 years late. I agree with the comments above: at the end of the day, Walmart is about price, period. Whenever they veer off (mostly for P.R. reasons), they seem to falter and open themselves up to the Walmart haters.

We shall see, but I don't see the promotion of female-run businesses to be anywhere near as impactful as the return of Action Alley.

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Lee Peterson, EVP Creative Services, WD Partners

Overall, I don't see it as having much effect. As mentioned above, most buying decisions in Walmart are likely to be based primarily on price, not source.

As an aside, could a male-owned business that Walmart turns down sue for gender-based discrimination?

Bob Houk, semi, semi-retired

Next September, I'll be sure to visit my local Walmart to check out products bearing "Women Owned" labels for the singular reason that I'm very curious to see the range and quality of products sourced for this initiative.

To me, the logo is secondary to the quality and selection of the products offered. What I'm hoping to find are gourmet foods, soft goods, home decor and designer items from local as well as national woman-owned businesses that are appealing, high quality, unique and at a reasonable price point.

I'm part of that 90% who will buy from a woman owned business because I do feel the products typically are of better quality. I hope this proves true at Walmart.

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Karen S. Herman, Founder & Design Director, Gustie Creative LLC

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