1. Moderately Priced Consumer Electronics
Walmart still isn’t the best place to shop for a top-of-the-line television. But its focus on bringing in more big brands has made it an attractive option for shoppers seeking consumer electronics in the sub-$1,000 price range. Last year, for example, some WalMart stores offered a 50-inch Samsung plasma television for less than $700.
2. Smart Phones
In the past year, Walmart has beefed up its offerings of higher-end cell phones, especially Blackberries. This is good news if you’ve reached the end of your phone contract and are looking to compare new phones and carriers all in one place.
While Walmart has been criticized in the past for being more concerned with price than environmental or labor issues when sourcing its goods, one area where it’s improving its record is with coffee. This year, the company partnered with TransFair USA, an independent certifying agency, to offer fair trade-certified coffee in its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores.
4. Video Games Bundles
You can save a lot more money if you’re in the market for video game systems, which Walmart often bundles with starter games. For example, Walmart was recently selling the Xbox 360 Elite gaming system, along with two games, including this season’s blockbuster title, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, for just $259. The game console alone sells for upward of $249 at stores such as Sears, while Call of Duty typically retails for $60.
5. Laundry Detergent
Now the chain is trying to clean up its act by offering more eco-friendly products. One area where it’s done the most is laundry detergent. The company recently switched to selling only concentrated laundry detergent in its U.S. stores — these products use up to 50 percent less packaging and require less fuel to transport than the earlier versions.
To Not Buy:
1. High End Electronics
Though Walmart has expanded its selection of name-brand electronics, it’s still focused on value-oriented products in the sub-$1,000 price range. And its sales staff tends not to be experts in the finer points of multimedia interface.
This year, Walmart slashed prices aggressively to establish itself as the low-price leader for best-selling books. The store cut the cost of popular novels such as Stephen King’s Under the Dome by 70 percent to $13.99, sparking a price war with Amazon
3. Wood Furniture
Despite Walmart’s increased focus on sustainability, the retailer has a long way to go in the furniture category. In December 2007, an environmental group published a report tracing furniture from Walmart suppliers to wood illegally logged in protected Russian habitats for Siberian tigers and other wildlife. Several months later, Walmart promised to investigate its suppliers and joined the Global Forest & Trade Network, an organization dedicated to eliminating illegal logging. Environmental activists have applauded Walmart’s promise to purge environmentally rotten wood, but Walmart could take until a self-imposed deadline of 2013 to phase out the products. Until then, consumers can’t be certain that Walmart’s wood furniture comes from well-managed forests.