Walmart Has Pulled Kobo Displays From Stores

Walmart has pulled the Kobo displays from its stores in a recent reorganization, but they still have the ereaders in stock.

Earlier today I had a reason to visit my local Walmart store for the first time in a couple months. This store had a Kobo display when I was last there in early April, but today I found that they had replaced it with books.

My apologies for the quality of the photo, folks; my phone’s camera was overwhelmed by the lighting.

The Kobo display had previously occupied two sections of the main aisle near the media/electronics dept. One section was devoted to ebook gift cards, and the other was supposed to be Kobo demo units (this was never actually set up in any of the stores I checked), but now both sections and in fact the entire wall has been replaced with books. The books had previously had their own aisle in the media/electronics dept, but they got kicked out so Walmart could install additional tables with tablet and laptop demo units. (Think Best Buy or Apple store, but more crowded.)

Walmart and Kobo announced in January 2018 that Walmart would be Kobo’s retail partner in the US, and that made that partnership a reality in August 2018 with the launch of an ebookstore on Walmart.com, and the installation if the aforementioned Kobo displays in select Walmart stores.

The retailer did not invest the time to maintain the displays, which was a shame because they were actually selling the ebook gift cards. Walmart also neglected to train their staff on how the devices worked, or even their specs.

While we are on the topic, what did you think of the displays? Did your Walmart store even have one?

I do not know what happened to the gift cards from the displays, but I can report that the ereader hardware is still in stores, although I was not able to put my hands on them.  All three of Kobo’s current models (Clara, Libra, Forma) are listed as being available for next day pickup at my local Walmart.

While it’s possible Walmart could be fibbing about availability, I seriously doubt that is the case. Availability accuracy is too damned important in the retail trade currently, and Walmart does not want to annoy customers with a bait and switch.

While the store displays are gone, Walmart continues to sell ebooks and ereaders on its website.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

7 Comments

  1. Disgusting Dude1 July, 2020

    Sounds a lot like how B&N “carries” APub books.
    “Well, if you are sure you really want one of those, we can special order them in a week or two. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have this nice Patterson book instead?”

    Still, it’s more than Rakuten has done for years.
    (Unless they’ve started carrying factory-fresh Kobos lately?)

    I wonder if maybe Walmart makes more money selling Onn Tablets

    Reply
  2. Fbone2 July, 2020

    My local Walmart has no display and no ereaders in stock.

    Reply
    1. Disgusting Dude2 July, 2020

      Mine never did.
      They do display tablets, though.

      Reply
  3. Susan2 July, 2020

    In the Walmarts near me they never had a decent Kobo display – just the book cards – no devices, pictures of devices or information about them. The couple of employees i asked about Kobo had no idea what I was talking about.

    Reply
  4. Xavier Basora2 July, 2020

    Walmart is a general store. Since books/ebooks aren’t a big item the suits don’t care. It’s just a revenue stream and if costs money out it goes.

    Further big box companies just can’t be bothered to train staff to actually learn about their products especially technical products. Which is so aggravating.

    xavier

    Reply
  5. rcentros7 July, 2020

    In 2018, when they first installed these displays, I found a Walmart sheet that said in April (2019) they were going to integrate Kobos into the store’s main floor plan (implying that the original displays were a stopgap measure). Also, I got the feeling, that this is when they expected Walmart employees to take “ownership” of the Kobo section (the “stopgap” measure specified that contractors would come in once a week to restock the Kobo displays and, basically, Walmart employees were not involved). Of course, no changes ever happened in 2019.

    So, I guess, the “Pollyanna” way of looking at this is to believe that Walmart is about to integrate Kobos into the main floor plan (finally). But I’m guessing they consider in-store Kobo book and device sales a failed experiment. I’m going to check the North Richland Hills, TX Walmart and see if they’ve done the same thing as the store you’ve pictured. They actually sold Kobo devices in NRH for a while.

    Reply
    1. rcentros8 July, 2020

      Both Walmarts I checked, including the one that sold Aura 2s, no longer have the Kobo display set up. Looks like a failed experiment.

      Reply

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