Walmart's new Omaha store puts out welcome mat for Hispanics - Omaha.com
Published Monday, July 8, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 11:56 am
Walmart's new Omaha store puts out welcome mat for Hispanics

When the doors of the new Walmart Neighborhood Market at 50th and L Streets swing open July 17, visitors will be greeted by signs printed in English and Spanish, and more than two-dozen bilingual employees, identifiable by their “Hablo Espanol” badges.

Throughout the 41,000-square-foot store, the retailer's familiar slogan “Every Day Low Price” will be paired with its Spanish equivalent, “Precio bajo todos los dias.”

Other signs will point customers toward food aisles labeled in both languages.

Looking for a garlic press? Check the aisle labeled “Kitchen Gadgets/ Utensilios de cocina.”

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The Arkansas-based retailer hopes its bilingual signs and large selection of Hispanic food and health and beauty products will draw Hispanic customers from the surrounding community.

The store will have the largest assortment of Hispanic products of any of the other Omaha-area Walmart neighborhood stores, said its manager, Adam Eppert.

And that assortment will be spread throughout the store, “intermingled,” instead of being confined to separate aisles.

“The store isn't just for Hispanic customers, it's for everyone,” Eppert said.

Shoppers who prefer Coca-Cola made in Mexico, McCormick-brand mayonnaise with lime juice or tamale pots used to steam tamales will find those products at the store.

Some of the new store's nearest competitors include Avanza Supermarket at 2900 Leavenworth St. and No-Frills Supermarket at 4240 S. 50th St., both of which are owned by Nash Finch and stock Hispanic foods. Nash Finch and other area grocery store officials have said they are confident they can compete with Walmart.

While Walmart primarily competes on price and targets “people who are looking for the lowest price,” it's made a concerted effort in recent years to attract Hispanic customers, said David J. Livingston, a retail analyst at DJL Research in Milwaukee.

In 2011 and 2012, the retailer spent $60 million each year on marketing campaigns geared toward the Hispanic community. Its effort to reach the nation's Hispanic consumers earned Walmart the 2012 “Marketer of the Year” title by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.

Tony Roger, Walmart's senior vice president brand marketing and advertising, has said the majority of Walmart's sales growth is going to come from ethnic communities. As a result, Walmart plans to double its “diversity ad spending” this year.

More than 50 million Hispanics live in the United States, including 77,508 in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

Nationwide, Walmart operates more than 250 of the smaller-format grocery stores, which are about half the size of most supermarkets.

The store at 50th and L, which will be open 24 hours, seven days a week, will be the Omaha metro area's fourth Walmart Neighborhood Market. A total of seven Omaha-area locations are planned, with the remaining three stores scheduled to open in the next 12 months, Walmart spokeswoman Cynthia Horning said.

The company's executives have said they plan to step up the pace of construction and open even more Neighborhood Markets than planned — but not before they do their homework.

Each store's product assortment is intended to reflect the appetites of the area's residents, and that requires an understanding of the neighborhood's demographics, ethnic makeup and cultural influences.

For example, Walmart stores in Amish communities, such as Three Rivers, Mich., have hitching posts for horses and parking spaces for buggies, according to Step on Bus Tours, which conducts area tours.

Locally, the wine and cheese section at the Neighborhood Market at 168th and Harrison Streets, which opened last month, is intended to appeal to the more affluent community that surrounds the store.

Walmart appears to have chosen its 50th and L location with care. About half of Omaha's Hispanic population live in South Omaha within a mile or so of the grocery store.

The main entrance opens near the produce department, and the first items customers will see in that section are “salsa bar fixings,” Eppert said — “Jalapenos, Avocados, Roma Tomatoes and Cactus Leaves.”

Customers who need help navigating the store or reading labels can expect the assistance of bilingual employees. About 25 of the store's 95 employees, “hired from the community,” speak English and Spanish, said Mayra Sanchez, the store's personnel coordinator.

The new store is expected to spark other development. Plans call for three outbuildings next to the store's parking lot near 50th Street. Eppert said he doesn't know what retailers will occupy the three storefronts, but he did say the sooner the better. “They'll drive more traffic to the store.”

Contact the writer: Janice Podsada

janice.podsada@owh.com    |   402-444-1142

Janice is a retail reporter for The World-Herald's Money section.

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