The return of 'Action Alley'? Walmart welcomes back the clutter

For those of you enjoying Walmart's recently de-cluttered stores, those aisles may soon be getting narrower, once again.

The In-Store Marketing Institute cites sources inside Walmart saying that rollbacks are returning to the aisles. Walmart is turning back the clock, telling buyers they have 30 days to get stores looking like they did three years ago. It's being called the "3/30 Mandate" and indicates that Walmart will reintroduce pallets of merchandise displayed as special promotions in the aisles -- or "Action Alley" -- and focusing less on additional rollbacks throughout the store. It's not so much a reduction in the number of rollbacks, but a repositioning of merchandise.

The information comes from anonymous sources but Bill Schover, editorial director of the In-Store Marketing Institute, tells WalletPop he's received calls confirming the news item. Anonymously, of course.
A Walmart spokesman wouldn't confirm the mandate, but tells WalletPop in an email, "Taking merchandise out of the action alley and providing clear sight lines has been a successful strategy for us. We're constantly listening to our customers and some have told us they liked seeing the rollbacks on merchandise in the aisles."

Listening to customers is what took the merchandise out of the aisles to begin with. Creating wider, more easily navigable aisles was part of Walmart's "Project Impact," a plan to clean up stores and improve the customer experience. It rearranged departments and reduced the number of items in stores by about 15%. The cleaner stores were a hit with shoppers, but not so much the disappearing products, and Walmart began adding back in 300 such items in March.

Now it seems the company is returning to the "Action Alley" of old. This is what Walmart calls the main aisle of the store, where big rollbacks used to be found. The displays added to the cluttered feel of the stores, but also drove sales. Suppliers took a hit as did the company.

Now Action Alley is coming back, by all appearances.

"Currently we have various levels of merchandise in action alley in about half of our stores. We've given more autonomy to our store managers to make the decisions on what is right for their customers," says the spokesman. "We have to balance the amount of promotional intensity with clear site lines but we think we can do both and provide customers the shopping experience they expect."

Walmart was trying to capture and retain shoppers that found its stores as the recession took hold, many of whom were former Target customers. But its own shoppers revolted and sales have suffered, so Walmart is returning to the formula that served it so well before: Sell stuff cheap.

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