Wal-Mart gets aggressive on holiday match

By Andria Cheng | Mcclatchy-tribune

NEW YORK – Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s biggest division, Walmart U.S., in seeking to reverse nine straight quarters of same-store sales declines, is getting aggressive and giving a bigger time window this holiday season with its price-matching guarantee.
The company said that if a customer finds lower print advertised prices at its rivals on any identical items shoppers purchase between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 in their local markets, the Bentonville, Ark., company will give the customer a gift card for the difference through Dec. 25. Normally, the company matches prices with its ad-match policy only when the purchase is made at the same time a competitor’s ad is running.
The company also will match prices offered on Walmart.com, Chief Merchandising Officer Duncan Mac Naughton said on a conference call with reporters.
He said the holiday price-matching program is designed to encourage shoppers to buy earlier in the season. He declined to disclose the cost of the program or the expected participation rate, except to say Wal-Mart factored the program cost as part of its holiday plan. He said he doesn’t expect a significant change from the rate for its regular ad matching.
The price-matching guarantee is a series of efforts initiated by the largest retailer heading into the holidays as Wal-Mart seeks to recover some share lost to rivals including dollar store chain Dollar General Corp. and its discount competitor Target Corp., analysts said.
Walmart U.S. also has brought back its layaway program for toys and electronics categories, which Mac Naughton said is meeting the company’s expectations in its first week of launch.
For the first time this holiday season, Walmart.com also will ship apparel and consumable products for free on those category purchases over $45. The company also will expand its Pick Up Today program nationwide where shoppers can order stores items online and pick them up at their local stores the same day, spokesman Ravi Jariwala said in an interview.