Date: Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, 08:31
A recent Wal-Mart move to overhaul the chain’s electronics department in many of its retail locations with Apple-designated shopping areas is being seen as a sign that the mega-retailer is making a pitch to eventually carry Apple’s product line.
According to AppleInsider, the chain began revamping the electronics departments in approximately 3,500 of its locations last week, including 2,600 Supercenter locations. The move is being seen as a bid to capture a large portion of big-screen TV market share vacated by the closing of Circuit City, which shut down its operations after filing for bankruptcy back in November.
As part of the renovations, which should provide for a more spacious and interactive shopping experience, Wal-Mart will also be rolling out specialized in-store boutiques for popular brands such and Nintendo and Apple, similar to the Apple store-within-a-store layouts found in Best Buy retail stores.
Ben Reitzes, an analyst with Barclays Capital, offered a view that the move as a precursor to Wal-Mart extending its reach beyond iPods, iPhones, and accessories to Apple’s Mac line of computers.
“We believe Wal-Mart is actively pitching Apple to carry more products,” he said. “With Wal-Mart improving its retail displays, we believe that the mega-retailer could eventually earn the right to sell select Mac products without diluting Apple’s brand.”
Upon last check, Apple had under 10,000 distribution points for the Mac worldwide, so a move into Wal-Mart would increase Mac exposure significantly. Reitzes also noted that many of Wal-Mart’s stores are located in rural areas not near one of Apple’s own company stores.
The analyst also commented that while he doesn’t see the existing Mac line as a particularly good fit for the discount retailer outside of its US$599 Mac mini and US$999 MacBook offerings, but said he believes the company is working on more sub-US$1000 products that may eventually appeal to Wal-Mart’s customer base.
“We have recently stated that Apple could reposition the low-end of it Mac lines to be more affordable as well as eventually introduce an ultraportable touchscreen tablet device as early as this year,” Reitzes said. He’s likely referring to a couple of AppleInsider reports on those respective matters, including plans for more affordable Macs later this year and a Newton-like web tablet sometime thereafter.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen or heard anything on your end, let us know.