The Supply Side: Walmart seeks non-traditional holiday sales partnerships

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,012 views 

Walmart has recently forged a few non-traditional partnerships to ensure consumers who come to stores will have enhanced experiences and the opportunity to shop brands and unlock savings they might not usually find in physical stores.

The Bentonville-based global retailer partnered with Popable, a pop-up shop marketplace platform that connects brands and physical spaces inside retailers. For short-term leasing, Walmart said small businesses could rent retail space in designated U.S. Walmart stores.

Brands and spaces can list on Popable’s online website. Walmart said owners can pair their small businesses with their local participating Walmart to connect and enter into an agreeable temporary leasing agreement. The small business will predetermine the timeframe of the leases. They can range from a month up to a year but could also grow to a longer-term deal. Walmart said terms are decided and negotiated by the brands and spaces themselves.

“We are proud to work with Popable to offer local brands an opportunity to grow inside our stores,” said Darryl Spinks, senior director of retail services for Walmart. “This is a great example of our focus on offering services unique to the neighborhoods we serve through our store of the community initiative.”

Popable CEO Scott Blair said the partnership with Walmart is timely as many small businesses were forced to close because of the pandemic from 2020 through 2021.

“We are excited to partner with Walmart to bring new brands to local communities while providing small business owners the ability to thrive with some great built-in foot traffic,” he said. “For retailers emerging from a challenging year in the face of post-COVID impacts ranging from rising economic concerns to delivery issues at the ports, pop-up retail could be a great way to move excess inventory.”

Carol Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Retail in Bentonville, praised the Popable partnership with Walmart.

“It’s a shortcut to localization, allowing individual stores or groups of stores to feature items from small and local businesses without burdening Walmart’s merchandising teams. From a public relations standpoint, Walmart gets credit for supporting small and local businesses,” Spieckerman said. “Of course, the brands themselves benefit from having easier and more streamlined access to Walmart’s millions of customers, without having to worry about making massive commitments.”

Walmart has yet to say how many of its stores will participate in the Popable partnership.

Walmart also seeks to be an entertainment source and recently announced the expansion of its digital storefront dubbed the Netflix Hub. Walmart said it would bring the Netflix Hub to 2,400 of its stores and offer a new exclusive Netflix streaming gift card that allows customers to stream trending favorites without needing a credit or debit card.

“I have so many fond memories of perusing the movie aisle looking for the perfect film to watch with my family on movie night, sometimes sneaking a bag of candy or popcorn into the cart along the way. This is something I thought my kids would never experience until now,” said Frank Barbieri, vice president of content and digital at Walmart U.S.

Barbieri said the Netflix Hub aims to bring fans closer to the shows and movies they love. He said Walmart shoppers can now find more music, apparel, collectibles, games and seasonal items from popular shows and films on Netflix, such as “Stranger Things” and “Squid Game.”

Last year, Walmart partnered with Netflix to feature products online via an exclusive page. Now that will also include in-store experiences and products for shoppers who want to take the products home immediately.

Barbieri said the new in-store Hubs will also offer popcorn, confectionery snacks, and collectible cups that Walmart merchants curate to help shoppers enjoy a movie theater experience from home. Walmart said it will continue adding new seasonal products to the Hub to keep customers’ favorites at their fingertips as they shop in Walmart stores.

“The Netflix deal is essentially a licensing deal, yet the entertainment linkages and breadth of Netflix’s offerings make it a compelling proposition for both parties. With millions of Walmart customers, Netflix can drive greater awareness for its entertainment properties. Walmart gains instant relevance with a broad, multi-demographic fan base supported by Netflix’s programming portfolio,” Spieckerman said.

Walmart recently partnered with FIS, a premium payment network and fintech company, on a new premium payback program that allows customers at Walmart stores to redeem loyalty rewards from their credit cards to help offset the price at checkout.

The process is billed as one step. When Walmart customers use eligible cards, a checkout prompt allows them to turn in their card rewards and discounts deducted from the purchase amount.

“Walmart’s mission is to help customers save money so that they can live better, and FIS Premium Payback allows customers to enjoy the benefits of their rewards in real-time at checkout,” said Mike Cook, senior vice president and assistant treasurer at Walmart. “Today’s busy consumer is looking for a frictionless shopping experience, and our partnership with FIS makes paying with points as simple as a single prompt at the point of sale.”

Walmart said customers can obtain discounts at its 4,700 stores from some 7,000 card rewards programs that are part of the FIS ecosystem.

Walmart does not typically subscribe to rewards, savings or loyalty programs but instead focuses on everyday low prices for all shoppers. Analysts at Mercator Research said some benefits come with loyalty programs, which is a way Walmart can participate without compromising its low-price strategy. Mercator research found that 51% of members of grocery and supermarket programs indicate they spend more at their chosen store than those not members of a loyalty program.

“The FIS deal is the epitome of platform partnership. A major financial services company hooking up with a massive retailer, benefiting from the scale each enjoys in different businesses. These days, retail is all about choice and providing options. Increasingly, that includes payment and reward options, so the partnership is logical and very on-brand for Walmart,” Spieckerman said.

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.