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Walmart appeals to the Democrats



Over the past five years, Walmart (WMT) has had a funny thing to do: the retailer, known for its Arkansas roots and its attraction to the Red State, has prevailed with left-leaning buyers.

A majority of buyers who identify themselves as Democrats now say they would shop at Walmart, a shift of just five years, when just over four out of ten said they would be looking for new data from YouGov BrandIndex Shop buy a service that tracks the brand perception. The Democrats also say that they now see Walmart in a positive light while their perception was negative five years ago.

The shift is notable for its huge swing in just five years, but also because it came under republican-inclined buyers without eroding support, said Ted Marzilli, CEO of data products at YouGov. The reason, he said, may be due to a few changes at Walmart, including investments in technology and new services that spur younger buyers who tend to be more liberal.

Walmart has also raised the salaries of his workers and spoken out against anti-gay laws and got the LGBT magazine The Advocate to comment on Wal-Mart's "transformation into an LGBT ally."

"It is unusual for a brand to improve with one political party while holding its ratings with another political party," Marzilli said. "It's a serious performance that you can do."

Some of Walmart's recent steps show how she can appeal to a variety of groups. In late February, after the mass shootings in Parkland, Florida, the dealer increased the age to 21

for consumers who want to buy weapons and ammunition. And just this week, after pressure from family-friendly advocates, Walmart removed the Cosmopolitan magazine from his coffers.

In 2013, about 44 percent of Democratic buyers said they would consider buying from Walmart with 66 percent of Republicans. Five years later, and nearly 52 percent of Democrats said they would shop at Walmart, while the Republican share barely changed.

Brands tend to target a broad segment of the population, with the theory that the more buyers they reach, the better. However, some brands end with a political philosophy, either by mistake or by deliberate decision to target a smaller audience.

Hobby Lobby, for example, tends to attract conservative-minded buyers because the company is against providing emergency birth control for its employees.

Starbucks (SBUX), however, has been associated with liberal buyers, in part due to the views of its former CEO Howard Schultz. He vowed to stop 10,000 refugees after President Donald Trump imposed a ban on immigration from several Muslim countries.

Walmart, who did not respond to a request for comment, has in the past criticized progressive groups who criticized, among other things, his low wages and his opposition to trade unions.

"There has always been a heightened awareness of consumers joining forces with the Republican Party and those who are conservative," Marzilli said. "As it expanded, it extended to more rural counties, and these areas tend to be more conservative."

The shift is more than academic for Walmart, Marzilli said. The change is difficult for retailers who face challenges from online stores like Amazon (AMZN). Last year, several major retailers – such as Toys "R" Us – filed for bankruptcy, partly because of the impact of competition with Amazon and others.

Walmart's sales in the USA increased by 2.8 percent last year. In comparison, sales for discount stores fell by 1.5 percent in 2017 according to the Ministry of Commerce.

"It has had an impact on Walmart's balance sheet," said Marzilli.


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