Walmart Genderbends with Justin Bieber Nail Polish

Last Updated Nov 4, 2010 5:35 PM EDT

Walmart (WMT) has a long history of successfully partnering with teeny-bopper stars including Miley Cyrus. Now it's hitched its wagon to a possibly more troublesome figure, tweener singing sensation Justin Bieber.

As my BNET colleague Lydia Dishman has noted, Walmart has an exclusive on Bieber's new album, and his androgynous fragrance line. That latter is... interesting. But OK, men wear fragrance, too, from way back.

But then there's this: The Bieberware collection also includes a nail polish line he's created. Nail polish that comes with tiny little glitter hearts in it, no less.

OK, stop right there. Justin Bieber's image has been coming across as increasingly gay -- which is fine. But is it fine for Walmart?

This is the chain so conservative it won't stock America The Book by Daily Show comedian Jon Stewart, and tore Barbie's pregnant-doll friend Midge from the shelves. Managers have worked mightily to avoid anything remotely controversial gracing its shelves. And now it's hooked up with a star whose sexuality is currently being questioned on some 71,000 Web sites, after his remarks on a recent Oprah guest spot inspired questions in many minds.

It seems like a possible culture clash here between the direction Bieber is going -- take a look at the light-pink lipgloss he's wearing on that magazine cover -- and Walmart's brand. The situation bears watching, as it has the potential to backfire with Walmart's core audience in conservative middle-America. It seems like only a matter of time before some right-wing preacher finds out his daughter is wearing Bieber's nail polish and organizes a national boycott of the chain.

Maybe it won't happen, and tweener girls will flock in and make Walmart a mint for the holidays. Or if Walmart's lucky, maybe archconservatives won't catch on until after the chain loses its exclusivity on the products and Bieber merchandise is everywhere, as it will be in 2011. That'll make Walmart less of a target.

Photo via Flickr user morgan davis' photostream
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  • Carol Tice

    Carol Tice is a longtime business reporter whose work has appeared in Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times, and Nation's Restaurant News, among others. Online sites she's written for include Allbusiness.com and Yahoo!Hotjobs. She blogs about the business of writing at Make a Living Writing.