// Artilcle: Wal-Mart Tweaks Store for Arab-Americans
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Faizah
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« on: Mar 15, 2008 04:02 PM »


As salaamu alaikum

I found this on AOL News.  Since it relates to a change in a business operation, I opted to put it in the Finance section.

As salaamu alaikum

Fa'izah



Wal-Mart Tweaks Store for Arab-Americans
AP
Posted: 2008-03-14 12:19:54
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Faten Saad knew she wasn't in a typical Wal-Mart  when she saw an end-of-the-aisle display featuring Mamool.

Boxes of the date-filled, whole wheat cookie from the Middle East welcomed the 21-year-old Lebanon native into the international aisle of the new Wal-Mart store in this Detroit suburb known as the capital of Arab America. Aisle 3, which also features Eastern European and Hispanic food, represents many of the 550 items geared toward Arab-American shoppers in the store that opened last week.

It might be statistically tiny in a store with more than 150,000 items, but it's symbolically huge for the world's largest retailer as it seeks to change from a cost-is-everything monolith to one that customizes its stores to meet neighborhood needs.

Managers say they seek peace with the neighborhood's merchants - and vow not to undercut them on Middle Eastern specialties. But some experts and observers say Wal-Mart's well-planned launch in Dearborn is bound to shake up the buying and selling in a community that has long supported its own. Southeastern Michigan is home to an estimated 300,000 people who trace their roots to the Middle East.

"I have not heard of anything this tailored. It's inspiring to me as a shareholder," said Patricia Edwards, portfolio manager and retail analyst in the Seattle office of San Francisco-based investment manager Wentworth, Hauser & Violich, which has 537,000 shares of Wal-Mart Stores  Inc. stock.

The Dearborn store also sells Arabic music and plans to offer Muslim greeting cards. But the modifications go beyond merchandise: It has 35 employees who speak Arabic - noted in Arabic script on their badges. The store also has hired a local Arab-American educator to teach the staff cultural sensitivity.

It's clear as soon as shoppers walk in that this isn't a typical Wal-Mart. Inside the grocery entrance are 22 produce tables filled with squash, beans and cucumbers common in Middle Eastern dishes. The section also features grains and vegetables popular among blacks and Hispanics, two other demographics with sizable populations living nearby.

"It's like a farmers' market," said Bill Bartell, the store manager who developed the international aisle with Tut's International Export & Import Co., the Dearborn-based distributor that handles the sourcing for many of the store's Middle-Eastern items.

"Because we did all this due diligence prior to moving into this area, we came to realize our clients really kind of liked this atmosphere, and they liked the variety that we can give them."

More than a year of studying the market and meeting with community groups was put to the test last fall, when Bartell and a Tut's executive began to work on what would become aisle 3. They set up an 80-foot-long counter in an empty warehouse and hauled out products - date-filled cookies, grape leaves, vacuum-packed olives, chick peas and a 97-ounce jar of olive oil imported from the Middle East. The men spent two weeks working on a way to present a new line of products.

As he recalled their effort, a few women in hijabs - traditional Muslim head scarves - inspected produce. One spoke in Arabic to Mohamad Atwi, the developmental store manager.

Bartell said the store aims to offer convenience - not a comprehensive selection of specialty products.

"It's very important that we have the variety of the Muslim, Hispanic items, local items, at a comparable price," he said. "If you go over to Warren (Avenue) where there's other ... small retailers, they have a variety that goes on and on and on."

At the Super Greenland Market, which Wal-Mart studied to come up with its new store, customers can find one whole side of an aisle with more than 20 different varieties of chick peas and fava beans.

"We have vendors that extend from here to the end of the planet," said Jamal Koussan, owner of Super Greenland. "We import directly. That puts us at a big advantage."

He said Wal-Mart doesn't concern him, but he is watching it. He tracked his store's sales on Wal-Mart's opening day and saw no dip.

"I'm not saying they will have no effect on our business but nothing that will threaten us, that will threaten our existence or threaten our bottom line," he said.

Still, the lure of everything under one roof could prove stronger than product depth for some who frequent Middle Eastern shops.

Saad, the college student who emigrated from Lebanon in 1990, marveled while shopping at Wal-Mart and plans to return.

"I don't think I would come all the way here just to get those things, but I'd pick them up on the way if I was already here doing my shopping," she said.

Warren David, a public relations and marketing specialist focusing on Arab-American and Islamic markets, called Wal-Mart's arrival bittersweet. He's happy for the steps it's taken, but "at the same time I can't help but think it's going to have some kind of impact on the local business community."

The Dearborn Wal-Mart is part of a two-year-old corporate effort to help sales by tailoring stores to local demographics, said spokeswoman Amy Wyatt-Moore at Wal-Mart's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. It targeted six groups: Hispanics, blacks, empty-nesters/boomers, affluent, suburban and rural shoppers.

Dearborn's store is designed to reflect its neighborhood, not serve as a national template for Arab-American shoppers, she said.

"We realize there are more than those six broad demographic groups around the country. In some places the result will be a unique store," Wyatt-Moore said.

Edwards, the analyst, says the Dearborn store is a good move for a company that historically has been better at the science, rather than the art, of retail.

"Wal-Mart is a little kinder and gentler than they were 10 years ago. They are fierce competitors ... but I don't think they're trying to do a scorched earth policy," she said.

"The trick for these local merchants is ... they're going to have to change how they operate in the face of this changing competition."

AP Business Writer Marcus Kabel in Bentonville, Ark., contributed to this report.


Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
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« Reply #1 on: Mar 16, 2008 10:03 AM »

salam

oh wal-mart.  i hate it but i continue to shop there! 

now they are trying to wow the middle easterns, yay  Roll Eyes  i think they are trying to drive the little guys out of business! it is all a conspiracy i tell ya ...
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« Reply #2 on: Mar 16, 2008 10:56 AM »

ws,

I don't know about this either. on the one hand more variety and professional ethnic desi/arab goods are really nice. every time i walk into one of those desi corner stores, it's like not very clean, i don't know how long the stuff has been on the shelf and i really don't know how to bargain or if i'm getting ripped off. sometimes i watch the aunties and they breeze their way in there, somehow pick all the best items and argue with the shopkeeper and insult the product enough to get the price they want instead of the one written! Huh? and somehow they're paid and out of there before me even if i've been there longer!

but I also know that a huge number of muslims rely on their businesses to survive. it doesn't take much effort from me to buy certain things in the small local stores than from wal-mart, but now if wal-mart has everything who would bother with the little guy?
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« Reply #3 on: Mar 16, 2008 05:09 PM »

As salaamu alaikum

Yes, Wal-Mart is becoming the one-stop shop for everything you could possibly need (or think you need) and it is making it more difficult for the small business to compete in terms of variety of merchadise and cost; still the smaller stores can offer more individualized customer service which Wal-Mart (or other big box stores) can never do no matter how many people they employ.  Also, while it's nice to be able to go into a store and see things that reflect me (and my sisters and brothers in Islam) I am also concerned that Ramadan and both sEid are becoming commercialized and big business is to blame because they want to increase profits while damaging tradition - okay totally different topic for discussion.

Still it is nice to see the big stores trying to offer what customers want rather than dictating what customers can have.  With everyone leading such busy lives, to be able to get everything you need in one place is a big help.  My eldest daughter, however, still doesn't like the idea of being able to buy groceries from Wal-Mart or clothing from the supermarket.  Now if I could by absolutely everything on-line and have it delivered to my door, I'd be happy because I hate dealing with crowds and slow moving lines.

As salaamu alaikum

Fa'izah
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