FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — These, Walmart executives say, could be the year’s biggest sensation: high-top sneakers with light-up soles.
Yes, says Steve Bratspies, Walmart’s chief merchandising officer, stomping on stage in his black Flashlights sneakers, you heard right: The world’s largest retailer is expecting to sell $25 million worth of these sneakers this year. At $19.97 a pop, that’s 1.25 million pairs of shoes.
“Like these sneakers?” he asks a crowd of thousands of screaming Walmart employees, two days before the company’s annual shareholder meeting. “Flashlights sneakers. These are a huge trend we’re betting on this year.”
And if the company does sell the expected amount, he says, that would be “enough lights for us to light up 48 Rockefeller Center Christmas trees. That’s a lot of lights!” (It’s worth noting that $25 million in flashing-shoe sales would be a drop in the bucket for Walmart, making up less than 0.01 percent of the $298.4 billion in U.S. sales it reported last year.)
The shoes, which will hit shelves in July, will be available in in four colors: gray, white, black and glittery pink. They come equipped with a USB cord that connects each sneaker with a phone or computer. Once charged, the blue, green and purple LED lights flash for up to eight hours at a time.
Similar shoes at “the biggest national brands,” Bratspies said, will sell for about $60 a pair. At Walmart, they’ll cost about one-third of that. “We beat on price, don’t we?” he said. “Every day, we beat on price.”
Then he rattled off more of the company’s biggest selling points: “Sales are up. Traffic is up. Momentum is ours.”
Bratspies turned to the company’s employees: “Your job is to create energy and excitement behind every apple, every bicycle, every pair of pajamas, every lightbulb, every single thing you sell in our stores.”
Other offerings to hit shelves this year include an “instant-cabin tent” that can be set up in about one minute. It comes with LED lights and a screen porch. (Although when employees tried to set it up on stage, it took well over a minute, before Bratspies declared, “I think it’s broken, actually. We’ve got a problem. Trust me, it’s really good.”)
But no matter, he said: “Next up, we’ve got a sweet treat that’s already a huge hit in our stores.”
Bags of caramel M&Ms parachuted down from the ceiling.
Employees went wild: “Wow, wow!” “Oh my god!” “Come to mama, baby, come to mama!”
Then the other highlights: A cooler that holds ice up to five days, gallons of glue that sell for $12.88 (of which Walmart plans to sell 7 million units), and pool floats shaped like bacon, cupcakes and emoji smileys.
“These things are fun and already flying off shelves,” Bratspies said as the crowd cheered. “We’ve got ducks, swans. All at a really great Walmart price.”