Dearborn Wal-Mart Tweaks Store for Arabs
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.
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.
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.
Comment: The "invisible hand" at work.