BENTONVILLE Ark. — Before any fresh food items get to the shelves at Sam’s Club stores they are first subject to a program of a rigorous testing its executives say has raised the level of quality — and sales volumes — at Wal-Mart Stores' warehouse division.  

Company officials on Wednesday provided media members with a look into the “sensory lab” at Sam’s Club’s headquarters here as part of its annual shareholders meeting.  

“Because we’re the buying agents for our customers it’s important that we provide them with the items that they want at a great value,” Bryant Harris vice president of fresh grocery for Sam’s Club, said in a presentation. “A key part to that is the items that they want. Which means we need their feedback to understand what they want from us. We need to understand what attributes that are important to an item and then over-deliver on those attributes.”  

The sensory lab accomplishes this through focus group testing of items on a number of attributes ranging from textures to tastes, officials said.

An emphasis on offering items with higher satisfaction scores has resulted in a reduction of the volume of items presented to Sam’s Club by suppliers, but higher sales of those that make it into the stores.  

“We view this as a huge competitive advantage” Bryant said.

 

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