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Walmart Is Bringing Back an ‘Old Friend’ to Showcase Its Low Prices

Walmart (WMT) might be dead serious about winning retail’s price wars, but the discount chain is reviving a lighthearted symbol to emphasize its low prices.

The world’s largest retailer told 2,600 U.S. store employees gathered in Fayetteville, Ark. on Wednesday that it is reviving its once-ubiquitous “Smiley” face symbol in fliers and store signage. First introduced as a sticker by Walmart in 1990, the Smiley face was once meant to signify price cuts, or “rollbacks” in Walmart-speak. The revived incarnation is now intended to represent any low prices at the retailer.

Last quarter, Walmart U.S. reported a 1% increase in comparable sales (which strip out newly closed or opened stores), the seventh such three-month period in a row. To keep that momentum going and face down competition from the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN) and Target (TGT), Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug Millon told investors last month the retailer had been lowering prices ahead of schedule.

“As we were thinking through how to communicate our low prices to customers, we felt like it was time to bring back an old friend, and one of the most-recognized symbols of low prices … Smiley,” said Walmart chief marketing officer Tony Rogers in a blog post, ahead of the chain’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday.

 

Rogers noted that even though the Smiley face has been largely absent from Walmart in the last decade, about 70% of customers still associate the symbol with savings.

The Smiley face has also been recruited for a new purpose: to recognize good service by store workers at a time when Walmart U.S. has been raising wages and giving staff more training to boost its service scores.

“We are making real progress on the number of customers in our stores, on our sales promise, our ‘clean, fast and friendly’ scores,” Walmart U.S. Chief Operating Officer Judith McKenna told employees on Wednesday. “When I’m out in stores, I can see that we’re getting better,” she said. “We’re restoring pride back into our business.”