1) Walmart’s Health Center aims to make healthcare more accessible but the retailer is likely chasing profits over altruism.

WHAT HAPPENED: In mid-September Walmart will pilot two new healthcare clinics in its Georgia and Dallas stores that will offer affordable dental care, mental health counseling and X-ray services. Healthcare clinics currently exist in multiple stores throughout these regions but don’t provide these services. Walmart’s healthcare initiative is as a response to CVS’ “Health Hub”partnership with Aetna that will offer similar services in 1,500 CVS stores by 2021.

WHY IT MATTERS

  • As the largest employer in the U.S. Walmart is positioned to disrupt the highly complex and controversial American healthcare system. With over 5,000 stores nationwide, Walmart has the bandwidth to reach the majority of Americans, especially those in rural areas who are closer to a Walmart store than a local hospital. Walmart also has the scale to partner with healthcare giants on a level that could positively impact the average American’s healthcare needs. Walmart’s is entering the space as massive competitors such as Amazon and direct-to-consumers businesses like Quip and Smile Direct Club continue to grow.
  • Affordable healthcare aligns with Walmart’s “everyday low prices” but conflicts with the retailer’s reputation for poorly treating its workers. Walmart’s Health Center is not only beneficial for people in its surrounding communities, but also for Walmart’s employees. This new initiative could signal Walmart’s increasing focus on reversing poor treatment of its workers or that the Health Center will not live up to the quality of care standards required to properly serve the country.

2) Puma’s new tech-heavy store in New York City promises increased brand awareness but doesn’t guarantee staying power in the crowded athleticwear space.

WHAT HAPPENED: Puma opened an 18,000 square-foot store on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. The store features Chinatown Market’s printing technology, which allows for customization on nearly every product in-store, in addition to NOBAL’s iMirror, which enables shoppers to see a range of colors and styles and allows them to flag store associates for assistance. The new store also features virtual reality simulators.

WHY IT MATTERS

  • Unique experiences can help get shoppers in the door, but Puma’s new store could quickly get gimickey. Nike’s new Fifth Avenue store, which opened last year, generated a lot of buzz due to its size and expansive product offering, but focused on more IRL experiences such as customization and product trials. Puma’s response, which is on the same street, is much more tech-heavy but is not necessarily competitive. Puma’s personalization offering is available on nearly every product, which makes the store more of a free-for-all than a curated shopping experience. While some customers might want this, most would rather be told what to buy than create it themselves, a balance Nike has mastered.
  • Puma should instead focus its technological innovation on its products over the shopping experience. Puma started introducing more technology into its product offering this past February with its self-tying training shoe, which Nike has also experimented with. Nike is proof that technological innovation that turns into sales needs to come from the product itself, not just the shopping experience for them.

3) Stitch Fix purchased the IP of Finery to enhance its personal styling offering, proof that the tech was worth more than its user base.

WHAT HAPPENED: Finery uses patented technology to scan a user’s digital shopping receipts and generate possible outfit combinations based on the user’s wardrobe. The free mobile application is designed to help users keep track of what they own and to shop strategically.

WHY IT MATTERS

  • Finery’s technology could help Stitch Fix lower the friction around signing up new members. Finery’s technology could enable Stitch Fix to gather customer data more efficiently and provides an alternative or a faster on-ramp to Stitch Fix’s standard style quiz. It could also might make life easier for Stitch Fix stylists who could better see how members are integrating previous purchases into their existing wardrobes.
  • Stitch Fix’s purchase is the end for Finery as an independent product. Stitch Fix is highly incentivized to rebrand the technology as its own and integrate it into its existing offering, since it will want to build one brand not two. Finery’s small user base is not worth Stitch Fix acquiring, which has over three million active customers, and the terms of the deal reflected this.

4) Build-A-Bear is partnering with Walmart as an alternative to malls, which could increase exposure or cover the brand’s potential decline.

WHAT HAPPENED: Build-A-Bear will celebrate national Teddy Bear Day at over 2,000 Walmart stores across the U.S. September 7th-September 9th. Walmart will host various activities and events at each location around Build-A-Bear products, and will include the release of a limited-edition bear. Build-A-Bear will also donate up to 50,000 teddy bears to charity over the course of the weekend.

WHY IT MATTERS:

  • Build-A-Bear and Walmart have seen success from previous collaborations, but the success is most likely due to Build-A-Bear’s impermanence. While there have been strong sales results from previous Build-A-Bear shop-in-shops and exclusive product offerings, Build-A-Bear has not announced plans to formalize its presence in Walmart. The short-term nature of the partnerships has made them successful, but this is a far cry from a long-term solution.
  • Build-A-Bear needs to find alternative and permanent retail options to maintain the brand’s ethos. As traffic continues to dwindle at most malls, it is important for Build-A-Bear to find alternative points of sale. The toy brand offers a unique proposition that includes personalization and experiences alongside an expansive product offering. Build-A-Bear was ahead of its time but the model needs to continue evolving by focusing on what young shoppers want today, which is more crossover with popular entertainment and ways to continue the experience outside of the store.