Yellow Smiley Faces Are So 1970s

Maybe Wal-Mart should go Goth to win customers back from Target. Obviously something's got to give

Editor's Note: "Lonely at the Top" is a humorous (we hope) take on the week's business news in the form of an advice column.

Dear Lonely at the Top,

Target (TGT) annoys the heck out of me. I run the world's largest retailer. I don't want to reveal our identity, but we have everything you could want in a megachain: smiley faces, greeters, everyday low prices. Still, all I ever get from people is, "Oooh, I love Target! Target is so hip! Their ads are so funny!" It really kills my holiday spirit. What should I do?

Cranky in Bentonville

Dear Lee,

Yes, I said Lee as in Lee Scott of Wal-Mart Stores (WMT)—don't even try to fool me with "Cranky." As I see it, you have two choices:

1. Get hip.

2. Go bankrupt.

Guessing here that you prefer Option 2.

I know, you've tried a hip replacement already and it didn't work. Same-store sales fell 0.1% in November, the worst performance in more than 10 years. The Metro7 line of cool urban clothes for slinky models was panned in the heartland, because your customers either didn't like them or didn't fit into them. The store remodeling is driving away customers. And people aren't going for those "aspirational" items like the $8,000 diamond ring and the $500 bottle of wine.

The problem is, you're thinking small. You need to think big, big, big, as big as Wal-Mart itself, all $312 billion in annual revenue.

Just for starters, get rid of the yellow smiley faces, which are sooo 1971. And burn every last blue vest. In fact, get rid of every vestige of "Wal-Mart Blue" from your stores. That color reminds me of garage mechanic overalls.

Then the fun begins. If you want to be hip, you can't just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. And you have to go way beyond anything Target would even dare. So…

• Replace all your kind, neighborly greeters with arrogant, insolent, slouching punks. That's attitude, man.

• Downsize the stores. Wal-Marts should be tiny little boutiques where you have to inhale to let somebody slide past you down the aisle.

• Change the name. I'm thinking The Wall, like the Pink Floyd album.

• Raise prices, a lot. This one is essential. You're charging under $20 for women's shoes? Give me a break. If you have even a single pair of women's shoes in your stores for under $100, you are alienating a significant portion of your potential new customer base.

• Lee, this one's going to be tough, but you personally need to be caught by the paparazzi in a compromising position with either Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. No one else will do. Work on it.

A bold plan, to be sure. But you have to admit that the status quo is pretty lame. I guarantee that if you follow my advice, you will become the greatest legend in the history of retailing. Either that or a pitiful laughingstock. Go on, seize the day!