Wal Mart's new look: Surviving - and thriving - in a recession

Wal-Mart (WMT) has always marketed itself to customers who are living from paycheck to paycheck, and the economic downturn has vastly expanded its core audience. As the same high-level consumers who once turned their noses up at the retailer now tentatively creep through its doors, the chain is faced with a difficult -- if exciting -- question: how can it retain its classic bargain-hunter appeal while appealing to its new, upscale clientele? If it can uncover the answer, the company may emerge from the recession stronger than ever.

The first step in Wal-Mart's new strategy lies in adjusting to its new customers is with expanded premium offerings. By offering products from well-regarded companies like Dell, Palm, Apple, Danskin and Kitchen Aid, the chain is hoping to capture the money -- and loyalty -- of its new customers.