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Source: Internet Retailer Internet Retailer

Wal-Mart will focus on variety and improved services this holiday season

Published: 09 Dec 2014 02:54:12 PST

The retail chain will kick off its holiday promotions tomorrow, and executives say consumers can find 1 million more products on Walmart.com than they could last holiday season.

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s holiday season sales strategy is to offer consumers a broader product mix, services that make shopping easier and low prices, company executives said in a briefing with reporters yesterday.

The retailer said it will deck Walmart.com and its more than 4,300 stores with red and green and start its holiday efforts in earnest tomorrow, Nov. 1, the same date it officially launched its holiday efforts in 2013. E-commerce leader Amazon.com Inc. will start its own holiday promotions Nov. 1, too. Starting Saturday, Walmart.com will feature the first set of “hundreds” of weekly online specials planned for the season. It will discount 20,000 other items starting that day online and in-store, with those “rollback” prices staying discounted for 90 days. Amazon says it will offer 15,000 limited-time deals for holiday shoppers throughout the holiday shopping season.

On Monday,  Walmart.com, the No. 4 e-retailer in North American web sales according to the Top 500 Guide, will host its “Holiday Cyber Event” for the second year in a row, with the sale again occurring on the Monday after Halloween. It will offer 15 products at prices typically reserved for the Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) shopping days. A spokesman said the sales event last year offered seven products at deep discounts. She says consumers this year who purchase any of the 15 products on offer can pick them up the same day in stores that have them in stock. That same-day pick-up in stores wasn’t available during the event last year. One of the products, a NutriNinja Pro Blender, will retail for $65 that day, down from its current price of $99.

Walmart executives declined to say what offers the retailer has planned for weekend following Thanksgiving. 

Walmart.com this holiday season will feature 7 million product SKUs, up from 6 million during holiday 2013, said Phillip Oaks, vice president of merchandising for Walmart e-commerce. Oaks says consumers shopping Walmart.com can also receive free shipping to their homes on the top 100 gift products with no minimum purchase. The 100 products eligible for that offer were selected by Walmart merchandisers.

“The objective is to create an easy guide to shop [where consumers can] get everything they need on their list,” Oaks said, noting the products include popular licensed items expected to do well this season, such as items from the movie “Frozen,” Lego products, board games and electronics. Normally, Walmart.com only offers free shipping to consumers’ homes on orders of more than $50, and free shipping on orders shipped to the store that consumers pick up. Walmart is also guaranteeing delivery of the top 100 products by Christmas Eve, but declined to say what the order cutoff date would be for guaranteed delivery.

Walmart competitor Target Corp., No. 18 in the Top 500 Guide, announced last week it is offering free shipping on all web orders for deliveries to the 48 contiguous U.S. states through Dec. 20—a first for the mass merchant.

Consumers coming to a Wal-Mart location will have more tools to help them shop this holiday season, including the ability to make wish lists, put items on layaway and a “holiday hub” that will include videos, product demos and recipes, on Walmart.com. It’ll also distribute the holiday hub content across social media.

The retailer has further updated its smartphone app for Android to include “search my store” functionality, which will let consumers enter a search term and see the product selection available on Walmart.com and which products are available in the consumer’s preferred Wal-Mart store. Results for items available in store will display which aisle they are in. Walmart executives say an update with the same functionalities for Apple iOS smartphones will be ready Nov. 15.

Consumers can also expect Savings Catcher, the price comparison and refund tool Wal-Mart rolled out nationally this summer, to compare and refund on more food products during the season. Savings Catcher—available within Wal-Mart’s mobile app and online—compares the prices paid for eligible items with the advertised price at other nearby retailers. If another retailer offers a lower price, Wal-Mart issues the consumer an electronic gift card with the difference. Wal-Mart executives say Savings Catcher will apply to foods like hams and turkeys bought during the holidays.

Following on its money-saving initiatives, executives on the call did confirm media reports that the retailer is considering matching the online prices offered by competitors but that it has not made any final decisions. They noted that Wal-Mart store managers have the authority to match prices on a case-by-case basis and that “we are considering [price matching] in a broader way.”

Target last week said it will match in stores from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 the prices consumers find for identical products advertised by local store competitors and select online retailers, including Walmart.com and Amazon.com Inc.

A basket comparison conducted in August by market research firm Kantar Retail among prices found in Wal-Mart stores, Walmart.com and Amazon.com shows that while Wal-Mart store prices for grocery and health and beauty products are cheaper than those on Walmart.com and Amazon.com, Amazon’s prices for general merchandise goods were lower than Walmart’s. The Kantar Retail study compared 53 nationally branded products and included product listings from Amazon marketplace sellers. The prices for general merchandise goods, a category which would include holiday-friendly gift products like toys and electronics, were 2.1% lower on Amazon than on Walmart.com and 18.5% lower than those found in Wal-Mart Supercenter stores. 

By Allison Enright Editor
October 31, 2014, 9:36 AM

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