It's possible to subsist almost entirely on items found in Walmart (you can even buy tents if you don't have a home), but there's one product found in a quarter of all American households that most Walmarts don't stock: guns. Until now. Walmart is returning the gun counter to a big chunk of its stores. Why does the same store that sells baby clothes and books like Organic Gardening for the 21st Century think its customers will want rifles, shotguns, and ammunition? Because Americans love guns. And Walmart thinks they can sell them to us.
Once upon a time, the majority of Walmart stores carried guns; it was a classic point in the litany of liberal complaints against the company. But in 2006, Walmart pulled firearms from all but a third of its stores as the result of "diminished customer relevancy and demand" in certain locations, according to former Walmart spokeswoman Jolanda Stewart.
Walmart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez tells us that the firearms were removed from store shelves for a variety of reasons, but that he doesn't "necessarily have insight into why. We've obviously realized over time that the appeal may be a little bit broader than what we thought." While the move probably wasn't related to the company's push to focus on energy conservation and generally confusing its old critics, it certainly helped add to Walmart's growing acceptance among the coastal set.
But now, apparently, the retailer has realized the folly of that move—people want guns all over the place. Walmart announced this week that it is bringing firearms back to hundreds of stores, meaning almost half of the retailer's 3,600 locations will sell shotguns and rifles. These will be both in rural stores, but also in slightly more urban locations like Albuquerque, N.M., and Jacksonville, Fla., according to The Wall Street Journal.
The move is part of Walmart's attempt to sell more in the so-called "heritage categories"—things like bolts of sewing fabric, fishing rods, and all those other down-home-on-the-farm products beloved by our forebears, who didn't have the option of shopping at retail superstores. Their inclusion on Walmart's shelves make the retailer more of a one-stop shop than it already is, says Lopez. "Part of the reason why we're adding back to some locations is because we're working to deliver the broadest and most relevant assortment possible at the lowest price to our customers," he says. "We know they've depended on Walmart for many years for hunting, fishing, and sporting goods of all kinds."
The retailer is already the biggest firearm and ammunition vendor in the country. Having more gun-stocked Walmarts probably won't influence local violence, though it may put some mom and pop gun stores out of business (that liberal complaint is still valid!). And hey, there's an upside: In the event that we descend into some sort of survivalist fever dream, you'll know exactly where to find a shotgun.