Wal-Mart focuses on online order pickup in stores, lower prices
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A clown sits inside a bus seen in front of a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo
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By Nandita Bose
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday it will make tens of thousands more items from its online assortment available for same-day store pickup, and will offer more lower-priced items instead of deals as part of efforts to attract shoppers this holiday season.
Wal-Mart said the volume of items ordered online and then picked up in stores the same day increases by five times during the holiday season, so it plans to make more items across categories including apparel, toys and seasonal decor available in that manner.
Buy online and pick up in store has been a key offering from brick-and-mortar retailers, which use their store inventory to fulfill online orders the same day and compete with rival Amazon.com Inc's fast delivery times.
Wal-Mart also said it will focus more on discounts and offering the lowest prices on items instead of "gimmicky" product deals, for a second year in a row, as it said their customers expect more consistent pricing.
The moves were announced at a media briefing to outline its strategy for the November and December holiday shopping season, a crucial time for retailers during which they earn an outsized portion of their annual profits and sales.
"We want to lead on price and win the season on price," Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart's U.S. operations, told reporters.
Relentless price competition from Amazon.com, supermarkets and dollar stores has made it crucial for Wal-Mart to compete on price and highlight its low-price offerings.
Wal-Mart will, however, not follow its competitors in offering free shipping. It will continue to require a minimum online order of $50 to qualify for no shipping charges. Rival Target Corp on Tuesday extended its free shipping offer from Dec. 26 to January 1.
The retailer will also focus on making its store checkouts faster, Wal-Mart Chief Operating Officer Judith McKenna said. Dedicated staff wearing yellow vests will help shoppers find open registers and the shortest lines, as well as grabbing items customers may have forgotten.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose)
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