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The New York Times reports this morning that Wal-Mart is considering a chain-wide uniform change for its 1.3 million employees, shifting from the familiar smock and vest to khaki pants and a navy blue polo shirt – all the better to appeal to the more upscale customers that the retailer is trying to attract. “A fancier Wal-Mart, which is now trying to attract upscale shoppers with 300-thread-count sheets, flat-screen televisions and nine-layer lasagna, calls for a fancier uniform,” the Times writes.

A test of the new uniform is now taking place in 100 stores, and a broader shift could be rolled out before the holiday season, depending on reactions among consumers. The color of the polo shirt is most likely to change because of concerns that it looks too much like the shirts worn by Best Buy employees.
KC's View:
It’s true. To sell more upscale merchandise, Wal-Mart probably has dress its employees better.

But it is interesting to see some of the conflicting tactics that Wal-Mart is using. The retailer clearly wants to go more upscale, which means having better informed and invested (and, apparently better clad) employees. But it also reportedly plans to employ more part-timers, which doesn’t necessarily lead to a better-informed and invested employee base.

The problem seems to be that Wal-Mart needs to simultaneously grow sales into new categories and cut costs…and that ain’t easy.

This new effort may be a case of the emperor having new clothes. Or not.