retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times this morning has a story about the first Bentonville Film Festival, which, ironically, is taking place in an Arkansas town that has no movie theater.

The story notes that Bentonville is going through a kind of cultural and economic renaissance: "Cranes are cutting up the skylines, and real estate prices are headed in the same direction. Earlier this year, the northwest Arkansas metro population, which also includes Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville and other towns, passed the half-million mark.

"In Bentonville alone, the population jumped 14 percent to more than 40,000 between 2010 and 2013. The rest of the state straggled along at 1.5 percent.

"Tourists are rushing in, too. About 1.6 million have visited the lavishly Walton-financed and mostly free Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art since it opened in 2011. Last year, visitors came from 30 countries to view a collection reputed to be worth at least a half-billion dollars."

As for the film festival, "AMC Theatres, Coca-Cola and Walmart have joined to offer distribution on limited AMC screens and via Walmart to the winners. The festival, through its partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, is open exclusively to female and minority filmmakers, with the aim of igniting careers. Robert DeNiro, Rosie O’Donnell, Soledad O’Brien and other A-listers are said to be attending."
KC's View:
Let's be honest. One would not expect to see the words "Walmart," "women," and "culture" in a sentence not having to do with litigation or freedom of speech issues.

This is, in some ways, the new Walmart ... where executives know that they have to be careful not to disenfranchise so-called traditional customers, but also have to expand the company's appeal so that it can better compete against Amazon.

But also, to be fair, I think it is important not to paint with too broad a brush when talking about Walmart's traditional shoppers. I think the kinds of cultural shifts that we've seen taking place in the US have taken place not just in places like Massachusetts, but also in places like Iowa and Alabama and yes, Arkansas.