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Walmart+ drops the $35 minimum order for free shipping

Starting Friday, members get free next-day and two-day shipping no matter what they spend

Walmart is dropping its $35 minimum order requirement for Walmart+ members to receive free shipping, a move that is seen as ratcheting up the competition with Amazon.

Starting Friday, Walmart+ members can get free next-day and two-day delivery on all orders from the company’s website, regardless of how much they spend. Company officials hope the perk will attract more consumers to Walmart+.

“Customers have been clear, they want this benefit,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart. “Being able to toss an item into your cart, regardless the total, and check out right away lets them knock little things off their to-do list in no time.”

Deliveries from Walmart stores still carry a $35 minimum. Walmart+ members currently get unlimited free grocery deliveries, fuel discounts, and the ability to use Scan and Go in stores, which lets customers shop and check out with their phone.

The move matches Amazon Prime’s policy of offering members free delivery regardless of the size of the order. While the two programs have different costs and benefits, Walmart has now leveled the playing field in one area that consumers appear to value.

More places to use fuel discounts

Walmart said it is also expanding the number of locations where members can use their fuel discounts. They will now include Sam’s Club fuel stations across the country. The discounts are already available at Walmart, Murphy USA, and Murphy Express fuel stations.

Walmart+ launched earlier this year with an annual membership just under $100 a year, making it slightly less costly than Amazon Prime. The rollout included same-day grocery delivery and reserved delivery windows. 

A report cited by CNBC put total Walmart+ membership in mid-November at 19 million U.S. households, based on a survey. The same report puts Amazon Prime membership at an estimated 126 million people.

Walmart is dropping its $35 minimum order requirement for Walmart+ members to receive free shipping, a move that is seen as ratcheting up the competition w...
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Walmart celebrates Thanksgiving with free meal giveaways

Consumers have to connect their Walmart account with a web browser extension to get the freebie

Did someone say free Thanksgiving meal? Yep... Walmart. The mega retailer has looped in Butterball, Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, and others to offer consumers everything they need for a Thanksgiving dinner -- from cranberry sauce to the turkey itself -- compliments of the brands involved. 

Walmart locations nationwide are participating in this event through Thanksgiving Day, November 26.

The freebies

In total, there are nine gratis food products in the promotion, though some include caveats about specific sizes and other factors. Here are the details:

  • Butterball Turkey Breast Roast: Offer valid for 100 percent cash-back on all flavors of the 3 lb Butterball turkey roast, which includes a gravy packet. Also valid for $9.98 cash-back on Butterball whole turkeys.

  • McCormick Gravy: Offer valid for all 0.87 oz. McCormick gravy packet flavors.

  • Great Value Stuffing Mix: Offer valid for all 6 oz. Great Value Stuffing Mix flavors.

  • Idahoan Mashed Potatoes: Offer valid for all 8 oz. Idahoan Mashed Potato flavors.

  • Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup: Offer valid on 10.5 oz. can only.

  • Great Value Cranberry Sauce: Offer valid for all canned 14 oz. cranberry sauce varieties.

  • Great Value Green Beans: Offer valid on Great Value Fine Green Beans, 12 oz. frozen bag.

  • French’s Crispy Fried Onions: Offer valid on French’s Original Crispy Fried Onions, 2.8 oz..

  • Coca-Cola: Offer valid on 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola: Cherry Zero Sugar, Vanilla, Caffeine Free, Caffeine Free Zero Sugar, Original Taste, and Zero Sugar.

A 12 oz. bag of green beans or a 3 pound turkey may not go very far for some families. To get enough for everyone, it might take multiple people using separate Walmart accounts connected to Ibotta to stretch “free” into a family-size windfall.

“Free” takes some doing 

In all fairness, while Walmart and its partners are throwing around the word “free,” it’s a slight misnomer because the promotion is really a “cash-back” one. 

In reality, a consumer can’t just walk into a Walmart, load up their cart with the foods that are part of the promotion, and then check out without having to scan their credit card. To take advantage of the deal, a consumer has to complete two key steps:

Once that’s done, the consumer simply logs in to their Walmart account. They’ll immediately find all nine free Thanksgiving items in their browser extension (and via the Ibotta phone app within an hour) in the form of cash-back for the entire purchase (approx. $20.27).

Consumers are likely to see more “thanks” from major retailers and brands in the run-up to Thanksgiving. On Monday, Zoom announced that it was lifting its 40-minute time limit on the free version of its software so families could enjoy a longer virtual Thanksgiving together. BJ’s Wholesale Club also announced that it’s handing out free turkeys in advance of Thanksgiving.

Did someone say free Thanksgiving meal? Yep... Walmart. The mega retailer has looped in Butterball, Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, and others to offer consumers ev...
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Walmart announces new pet insurance coverage

Consumers can also find pet sitting and dog walking services through the retailer’s website

Walmart has started selling pet insurance from Petplan and connecting customers to pet sitters and dog walkers through a partnership with Rover. 

The retailer has revamped its website to include a new section called Walmart Pet Care, through which consumers can get pet supplies and find pet care services, including insurance. 

Melody Richard, vice president of Walmart Pets, said Walmart customers can save up to 10 percent on insurance policies by going through Walmart. They’ll also get Walmart gift cards in exchange for booking pet sitting or dog walking through Rover on the Walmart website. 

“We’re focused on bringing our customers and the beloved pets in their lives trusted, convenient and affordable programs at one destination,” Richard said. “And we’ll continue to focus on that.”

Increase in pet ownership

Walmart’s expanded roster of pet services coincides with an uptick in the number of consumers who recently got a new pet. The pandemic spurred a wave of pet adoptions as consumers sought companionship and found that they had more time at home. 

Subsequently, demand for pet supplies has increased, and pet supplies and seasonal costumes are expected to be popular gifts this holiday season. 

Walmart estimates that 90 million pet owners shop at Walmart. Last year, the retailer introduced Walmart PetRx, an in-store and online pharmacy that sells prescriptions at prices “significantly below competitors.” 

The company says its new Walmart Pet Insurance offering “provides coverage for veterinary fees due to accident, injury or illness, including chronic and hereditary conditions.” Customers can also file claims and schedule appointments through Petplan and get access to “$1000 worth of online virtual vet appointments at no additional charge.” 

Walmart has started selling pet insurance from Petplan and connecting customers to pet sitters and dog walkers through a partnership with Rover. The re...
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Walmart reportedly removing robot assistants from store aisles

Robots will stay on the cleaning crew, however

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has apparently decided that humans are just as efficient as robots.

The Wall Street Journal cites people familiar with the decision in reporting that Walmart will shelve plans to have robots wander its aisles keeping track of inventory. Instead, it will stick with store employees that the report says were shown to achieve similar results.

Walmart began deploying robots at select stores in 2017. Initial results proved to be positive and the company moved ahead with the project. 

Walmart expanded the use of robots in 2018 and a year later, deployed the machines at more of its stores to carry out specific tasks, such as unloading cargo and scrubbing floors. As recently as a year ago, the retailer appeared to be sold on adding robots to the workforce.

“Smart assistants have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly, so Walmart has been pioneering new technologies to minimize the time an associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks like cleaning floors or checking inventory on a shelf,” the retailer said in a 2019 statement.

COVID-19’s influence

So what happened? Why are the robots heading for the unemployment line? The Journal reports the experiment ended because Walmart discovered different solutions that worked out just as well.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) may also have hastened the robots’ demise. The surge in online shopping since the pandemic began apparently requires a human touch for the stores to operate at maximum efficiency.

The Journal reports Walmart now sees the need for more employees to collect online orders and keep up with inventory irregularities.

Not a good look

One source told The Journal that Walmart CEO John Furner was concerned about the optics, questioning how shoppers would react to seeing a robot working in a store. That said, not all robots are getting pink-slipped. The company will reportedly staff its cleaning crews with mechanical workers, who will do their jobs after hours.

As recently as January, Walmart predicted its reliance on robots would grow, putting them in about 20 percent of its stores. A Walmart spokeswoman told The Journal that about 10 percent of stores were using the robot assistants when the company decided to discontinue their use.

“We learned a lot about how technology can assist associates, make jobs easier and provide a better customer experience,” she told the newspaper. “We will continue testing new technologies and investing in our own processes and apps to best understand and track our inventory and help move products to our shelves as quickly as we can.”

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has apparently decided that humans are just as efficient as robots.The Wall Street Journal cites people familia...
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Walmart returns guns and ammunition to store shelves

The decision comes as other retailers prepare for possible post-election unrest

Walmart has walked back its decision to keep firearms and ammunition off store shelves ahead of the election. 

Last week, the retailer announced that it would pull the products over concerns of “civil unrest” stemming from the election and other politically charged incidents. The company said it temporarily moved the products to a secure location in the back of the store out of an “abundance of caution.” 

But Walmart said Monday that it has since determined that “incidents,” such as recent protests in Philadelphia stemming from the police shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr, remain “geographically isolated.” 

“As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today,” a company spokesperson told various media outlets.

The company made the decision to return firearms and ammunition to U.S. store shelves just days before the presidential election. Many are worried that the result of the election could sow unrest and incite violence. Some businesses have begun preparing for that possibility by boarding up store windows and taking other security measures. 

Walmart has walked back its decision to keep firearms and ammunition off store shelves ahead of the election. Last week, the retailer announced that it...
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Walmart to remove guns and ammunition from display shelves

The retailer cites concerns about potential civil unrest

Walmart is removing guns and ammunition from its display shelves, citing concerns about potential civil unrest that could lead to the firearms being stolen.

A Walmart spokesperson told media outlets that the move is not anything new, that the practice has been observed several times over the last few years. The items will still be available for purchase, however.

"We have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers," the spokesman said.

Several Walmart stores were damaged after George Floyd, an African American, died in May while being arrested in Minneapolis. Video of the incident went viral, resulting in criminal charges against the arresting officer and setting off widespread protests that turned violent in many cities.

A week before the election

Walmart’s move comes less than a week before a presidential election that has been marked by passion on both sides. Because of the overwhelming number of early ballots cast, due to concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19), results of a close election might not be known for days, increasing the possibility of rising civil tensions.

Walmart, in recent years, has responded to public pressure and reduced some types of firearms and ammunition sold in its stores. But the company remains an outlet for sporting rifles and shotguns.

In August, NSSF, the firearm industry trade association, updated its retail sales survey and estimated 5 million Americans purchased a firearm in the first seven months of 2020. Of that number, it estimated 40 percent of the sales went to consumers who had never purchased a gun.

‘Tectonic shift’

Lawrence Keane, NSSF’s senior vice president, called it a “tectonic shift” in the marketplace -- something that promises to transform today’s gun-owning community.

“These first-time buyers represent a group of people who, until now, were agnostic regarding firearm ownership,” Keane said. “That’s rapidly changing, and these Americans are taking hold of their God-given right to keep and bear arms and protect themselves and their loved ones.”

NSSF tracks the background checks associated with the sale of a firearm based on the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System (NICS). NSSF-adjusted NICS checks for January through July 2020 is a record 12.1 million, which is up 71.7 percent from the 7.1 million NSSF-adjusted NICS January through July 2019. 

Walmart is removing guns and ammunition from its display shelves, citing concerns about potential civil unrest that could lead to the firearms being stolen...
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Walmart announces sales event to rival Amazon’s Prime Day

The event will take place in mid-October

Walmart has announced that it plans to offer its own online deals in October, the same month Amazon is holding its Prime Day sales event. 

The retailer announced on Monday that it will hold a “Big Save” online sales event Oct. 11-15. During those days, Walmart says it will offer “Black Friday-like savings.” Price cuts will be applied to thousands of items in categories including electronics, toys, beauty items, and more. 

Walmart said some orders over $35 will be eligible for free two-day shipping, and others may be eligible for free next-day delivery or in-store pickup. 

Amazon confirmed on Sunday that it’s annual Prime Day event will take place on Oct. 13-14. The event is normally held in July, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced Amazon to postpone this year’s event.  

Walmart’s rival sales event will kick off Sunday, October 11, at 7 p.m. EST and end Thursday October 15. Some of the deals the company says it will offer include: 

  • JVC 55" 4K HDR Roku Smart LED TV – $248 (was $399, $151 savings)

  • Super Mario Party video game for Nintendo Switch – $39.99 (was $59.88, $19.89 savings)

  • Roku Ultra LT Streaming Media Player – $69 (was $79, $10 savings) 

  • Pioneer Woman 6 Quart Instant Pot – $49 (was $99, $50 savings)

  • Tzumi Ion Robotic Vacuum – $99 (was $179.88, $79.89 savings) 

  • Best Choice Products 250-Piece Kids STEM 3D Magnetic Building Blocks Play Set (Marketplace Item) - $64.99 (was $114.99, $50 savings)

  • Hunter Women's Original Tall Rain Boots (Marketplace Item) – $59.99 (was $79.99, $20 savings)

  • Scoop Women’s Printed Maxi Shirt Dress – $39.99 (was $59, $19.01 savings) 

Walmart has announced that it plans to offer its own online deals in October, the same month Amazon is holding its Prime Day sales event. The retailer...
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Walmart reveals holiday shopping plans that will be a little different this year

The pandemic-era holidays will feature more online shopping and more practical gifts

Halloween is more than a month away, but Walmart is already rolling out its plans for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. But then, this holiday season is likely to be like none other.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way consumers shop and what they buy, so Walmart says those factors have been taken into consideration. Instead of expanding store hours to accommodate shoppers, the retailer is maintaining its reduced schedule as a safety feature.

At the same time, it’s staffing up its e-commerce division to meet the expected surge in online holiday shopping this year. Fulfillment centers around the country will hire more than 20,000 seasonal workers, in jobs ranging from filling orders to operating power equipment. Walmart says some of these jobs will likely become permanent positions.

“As more people turn to online shopping, we want to ensure we’re staffed and ready to help deliver that special gift to their loved ones while continuing to fulfill our customer’s everyday needs,” said Greg Smith, executive vice president for supply chain for Walmart U.S. “We’re also proud to be able to continue to provide employment opportunities across the country when it’s needed most.”

Changing habits

Walmart says customers’ buying habits have changed over the last six months and it expects that to be reflected in the choice of holiday gifts. It’s stocking up on things it expects to be in high demand, such as athleisure, loungewear, and sleepwear for the family, outdoor grills, bicycles and exercise equipment, and outdoor sporting equipment. 

Noting that millions of families have adopted pets since the pandemic began, the company said it has increased its assortment and supply of pet products in its stores and online. For example, it has acquired more than 3 million pet beds.

Since baking and cooking have become pandemic trends, Walmart said it’s expanding its Holiday Bake Center to more of its stores and is increasing its inventory of popular kitchen appliances, like the KitchenAid Plus Stand Mixer.

Walmart said it’s also stocking up on traditional gifts, such as TVs, laptops, and video games, as well as 1,300 new toys, games, and puzzles.

Shopping differently

“Over the past six months, our customers have been shopping differently, and we expect that will continue into the most important shopping season of the year – the holidays,” said Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S.

As for Black Friday, McCall says that’s going to be different too. It’s going to start earlier and offer a wider selection of merchandise.

Walmart also expects a significant portion of its Black Friday shopping will take place online, in the safety and comfort of the customer’s home. Stores will continue to be closed in the overnight hours to allow for cleaning and restocking. 

In-store shoppers will use separate entrances and exits to minimize contact. Social distancing floor decals will remind shoppers to stay apart and the public address system will air constant safety reminders.

Halloween is more than a month away, but Walmart is already rolling out its plans for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. But then, this holiday...
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Walmart rolls out new 'Free Assembly' clothing line

The retailer has been down this road before with little to no success

Say hello to “Free Assembly,” Walmart’s newest attempt to gain the attention of fashion-conscious consumers. 

The product line comes complete with items for both men and women at a $9 to $45 price range, which the big box retailer hopes is a sweet spot and produces more uptake than its previous fashion endeavors.

Starting out, Free Assembly will focus on a fall collection with more than 30 items for women and 25 items for men.

“Customers will discover well-designed, high-quality pieces at prices below other American clothing brands – including a $45 structured blazer with an updated silhouette, a $39 viscose tiered maxi for women and a $30 fishtail parka at a fraction of the price found at specialty retailers,” wrote Denise Incandela, SVP Women’s Group, Elevated and Online Brands at Walmart. “What I’m most proud of though is the $40 organic selvedge denim that retails at an incredibly low price.”

To help Walmart gain some traction in the fashion space, it’s tapped Dwight Fenton, who’s worked his magic at Old Navy and J. Crew. 

But will it work this time?

The words “Walmart” and “fashion” haven’t proven to be a winning combination for the company. Some 10 years ago, it came up with "Project Impact" to try and upgrade the persona of its apparel, but that idea died hard and fast. 

In 2018, the company rolled out four other clothing lines and went on a buying spree of direct-to-consumer labels that included the menswear line Bonobos, the plus-size women’s line Eloquii Elements, and ModCloth, which took its cues from indie- and vintage-inspired women’s clothing. In 2019, Walmart sold ModCloth and downsized Bonobos. Eloquii is still part of the store’s brand lineup.

“Through our ongoing strategy of expanding our assortment for our customers, we’ve shown that we’re serious about establishing Walmart as a fashion destination,” wrote Denise Incandela, SVP Women’s Group, Elevated and Online Brands at Walmart.

“And, now we’re doubling-down to offer customers something they couldn’t find at Walmart before – a fashion essentials-inspired brand for both men and women created by our in-house design team.”

Say hello to “Free Assembly,” Walmart’s newest attempt to gain the attention of fashion-conscious consumers. The product line comes complete with items...
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Walmart announces pay increases for hourly employees

Around 11 percent of the company’s employees will receive a pay bump

Walmart announced on Thursday that it’s raising wages for 165,000 of its hourly employees across the U.S. 

In a statement, Walmart chief operating officer Dacona Smith said the retailer is implementing a more “team based” staffing model. New hourly and salaried leadership roles will be created at its supercenters. 

Pay for these new “team leader” positions will range from $18 to $21 an hour, and some will pay up to $30 an hour. The new system will result in a boost in pay for tens of thousands of the company’s hourly workers, Walmart said.

“We’re investing in new roles and skills training to give us the flexibility to serve customers anytime and anywhere. In turn, associates will have more room for career and pay growth,” Smith said.

Pay increases 

Pay for bakery and deli employees will increase to $15 an hour from $11 an hour. Many employees in Walmart’s auto care centers will see $1 per hour added to their pay. The changes will be reflected in workers’ pay starting in October.

"We are re-investing in several ways to provide associates with higher and more consistent base pay," the company said.

In announcing the changes, the retailer said "associates have done an incredible job serving customers and making a difference in their communities," especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure customers have access to the items they need while making health and safety a top priority,” Walmart said.

Walmart announced on Thursday that it’s raising wages for 165,000 of its hourly employees across the U.S. In a statement, Walmart chief operating offic...
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Walmart launches drone delivery pilot

Drone delivery would help the retailer further expand its delivery options

Walmart has teamed up with on-demand drone delivery company FlyTrex to test a program through which consumers can get grocery and household essentials delivered via an automated drone. 

The retailer started piloting the program in Fayetteville, N.C. on Wednesday. Walmart said FlyTrex drones are controlled over the cloud using a smart and easy control dashboard. 

“We know that it will be some time before we see millions of packages delivered via drone. That still feels like a bit of science fiction,” said Tom Ward, Walmart's senior vice president of customer product, in a blog post. 

Through the pilot, Ward said the company is hoping to gain insight into how the program would look when implemented on a larger scale. Walmart, like other retailers, is currently attempting to expand its pickup and delivery services amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

"At the end of the day, it’s learnings from pilots such as this that will help shape the potential of drone delivery on a larger scale and, true to the vision of our founder, take Walmart beyond where we’ve been,” Ward said.

Amazon also testing drone delivery

Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration gave Amazon approval to begin using drones for commercial package delivery. The agency said it’s confident in Amazon’s drone operating and safety procedures. 

"The FAA supports innovation that is beneficial to the public, especially during a health or weather-related crisis,” the agency said. 

Walmart has teamed up with on-demand drone delivery company FlyTrex to test a program through which consumers can get grocery and household essentials deli...
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Walmart to have kids test toys virtually this holiday season

The retailer created a ‘Walmart Wonder Lab’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic

This year, Walmart is planning on changing the way it usually has children test and rate toys ahead of the holiday season. 

Instead of inviting hundreds of kids to test toys at a convention center near its headquarters in Arkansas, the retailer has developed an online tool that will let kids test and play with toys in a safe way during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Walmart says the virtual alternative to toy testing, dubbed the “Walmart Wonder Lab,” will give kids a way to engage with over a hundred of its Top-Rated By Kids Toys List offerings, the company said in a news release

“Starting today, kids can play and engage with hundreds of toys from the aisles of America’s Best Toy Shop,” Walmart said. “The Walmart Wonder Lab transports kids into a choice-driven experience where kids can unbox, test and play with this holiday season’s hottest toys without leaving home.” 

In anticipation of a higher-than-usual number of online purchases this holiday season, the retailer said it shipped more toys to fulfillment centers this year.

"Toys play a critical role in families' lives as they spend more time at home and parents seek ways to keep kids engaged with learning-based play," said Steve Ronchetto, vice president of Toys at Walmart.

This year, Walmart is planning on changing the way it usually has children test and rate toys ahead of the holiday season. Instead of inviting hundreds...
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Walmart rolls out membership program to compete with Amazon Prime

Walmart+ will make its debut September 15

As expected, Walmart has announced the launch of a membership program similar to Amazon Prime. The program, Walmart+, costs $98 per year and launches September 15.

Details of the program leaked in July, and today’s announcement confirms most of them. Members get unlimited free delivery from Walmart stores, fuel discounts, and access to a range of tools designed to speed up the shopping process.

Payment options include the annual fee of $98 or a monthly charge of $12.95. The program is being introduced with a 15-day free trial.

“We are a company committed to meeting our customers’ needs,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart. “Customers know they can trust us and depend on us, and we’ve designed this program as the ultimate life hack for them.”

What’s included

Walmart says members will receive:

  • Unlimited free delivery: Delivery will be as fast as same-day on more than 160,000 items from nearby stores. It replaces Delivery Unlimited – a subscription service that allowed customers to place an unlimited number of deliveries for a flat yearly or monthly fee. Current subscribers will automatically become Walmart+ members.

  • Scan & Go: When members are in a Walmart store, they can unlock Scan & Go in the Walmart app and use it to scan their items as they shop and pay using Walmart Pay. 

  • Fuel discounts: Members can fill up and save up to five cents a gallon at nearly 2,000 Walmart, Murphy USA, and Murphy Express fuel stations. Sam’s Club fuel stations will soon be added to this lineup.

Not included are items purchased from Walmart.com. However, Walmart already offers free shipping on most orders of $35 or more.

Competing with Amazon Prime

It’s no secret that Walmart+ is aimed at Amazon Prime, another subscription service designed to make the online retailer top-of-mind with consumers.

Prime costs more -- $119 a year -- but offers additional perks like music and video streaming platforms that are included in the monthly fee. Most recently, it added AmazonFresh grocery delivery for customers who have a Prime subscription.

Walmart’s ad slogan is “always low prices.” With the introduction of Walmart+, it’s going after consumers who also value convenience.

“Life feels more complicated than ever,” said Whiteside. “Walmart+ is designed to make it easier – giving customers an option to not have to sacrifice on cost or convenience.” 

As expected, Walmart has announced the launch of a membership program similar to Amazon Prime. The program, Walmart+, costs $98 per year and launches Septe...
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Walmart, Instacart partnering to offer same-day delivery

Initial pilots are happening in markets in California in Oklahoma

Walmart is teaming up with delivery platform Instacart to offer same-day delivery in four markets. Under the partnership, consumers in parts of California -- Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego -- and Tulsa, Oklahoma can get delivery in as little as an hour. 

"The new partnership brings thousands of items -- from groceries, alcohol and pantry staples to home decor and improvement, personal care, electronics and more -- at everyday low prices from Walmart stores to customers' doors in as fast as an hour,” the company said in a statement. 

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a call with analysts in May that the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened consumer interest in ordering items for pickup or delivery.

“As this crisis created a need for social distancing and required people to stay at home, customers embraced pickup and delivery even more. Pickup and delivery are attracting greater numbers of new customers,” he said. “The number of new customers trying pickup and delivery has increased four times since mid-March.”

Competing against Amazon

The partnership will help put both companies in a better position to compete against Amazon and Whole Foods, CNBC and CNN reported. 

“The new partnership brings thousands of items — from groceries, alcohol and pantry staples to home decor and improvement, personal care, electronics and more — at everyday low prices from Walmart stores to customers’ doors in as fast as an hour,” Walmart said in a statement.

Instacart already has relationships in place with Target, Costco, and Kroger, among others.

News of the partnership comes at a time when consumers are expecting greater speed when it comes to delivery times amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Walmart announced earlier this summer that it expects to have Express Delivery in 2,000 stores. 

“We know our customers’ lives have changed during this pandemic, and so has the way they shop,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer, Walmart, in a statement. “We also know when we come out of this, customers will be busier than ever, and sometimes that will call for needing supplies in a hurry. COVID-19 has prompted us to launch Express Delivery even faster so that we’re here for our customers today and in the future.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a July testimony before the House Judiciary committee that Walmart and Instacart are major competitors to it and its subsidiary Whole Foods. 

“Every day, Amazon competes against large, established players like Target, Costco, Kroger, and, of course, Walmart,” Bezos said. “... We also face new competition from the likes of Shopify and Instacart.”

Walmart is teaming up with delivery platform Instacart to offer same-day delivery in four markets. Under the partnership, consumers in parts of California...
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Walmart announces that it will be closed on Thanksgiving

The company is also handing out more bonuses to employees because of their hard work during the pandemic

As thanks for the hard work its associates have put in during the pandemic, Walmart will be treating them to a day off on Thanksgiving. The retailer announced that it will be closing all of its Walmart and Sam’s Club locations.

“We know this has been a trying year, and our associates have stepped up. We hope they will enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day at home with their loved ones,” said John Furner, President and CEO of Walmart U.S. “We are certainly thankful to our people for all of their efforts.”

Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations will operate during normal hours on Wednesday, Nov. 25, but the company said that store and club hours for Friday, Nov. 27, will be shared at a later date.

The move signals a huge shift for the retailer. Walmart has not been closed on Thanksgiving Day since back in the late ‘80s. The move also follows a trend started in 2019 when Costco, Lowe’s, Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, and others took the initiative to give its workers the day off.

Preventing a potential health hazard

Walmart didn’t come right out and say it, but the downside of packed stores in the middle of the coronavirus menace had to be a factor. 

“This year, the decision for retailers is about much more than company values or even bottom lines,” said Ben Unglesbee of Retail Dive.

“With COVID-19 still racing through the U.S., and some top experts predicting a potentially dire fall and winter in terms of the virus' spread, it's a safety issue for both customers and employees. Customers packing into stores for sales during the all-important holiday shopping weekend present a potential public health hazard.”

Walmart passes extra gravy to its employees

Walmart also announced on Wednesday that it’s passing out another special cash bonus to store, club, distribution center, and fulfillment center associates for their dedication to serving customers, members, and communities during the pandemic. 

Bonuses will range from $250 for part-time hourly and temporary employees to $300 for full-time hourly associates. Drivers, managers, and assistant managers in stores, clubs, DCs, FCs, and Health & Wellness will also receive a bonus. All told, the bonuses will add up to about $428 million.

“Our associates have been working at an incredible pace, they’ve solved problems, and they’ve set an amazing example for others,” complemented Furner. “To further appreciate their incredible work, we are pleased to share another special cash bonus this summer.”

As thanks for the hard work its associates have put in during the pandemic, Walmart will be treating them to a day off on Thanksgiving. The retailer announ...
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Walmart plans to launch Amazon Prime-like membership service

Consumers will get same-day delivery through the $98 per year program

Walmart is reportedly planning to launch a membership program called Walmart+ later this month. The program will include many facets that mirror Amazon Prime, including same-day grocery delivery and reserved delivery windows. 

The retailer’s new membership program will purportedly cost $98 per year, and consumers will get access to same-day delivery, discounts on fuel at Walmart gas stations, and more. The program was initially slated to launch in late March or April, but Walmart was forced to delay the launch after the nation began battling the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Recode

Meeting demand

Walmart said last month that the pandemic has fueled an increase in demand for certain items. 

"We experienced unprecedented demand in categories like paper goods, surface cleaners and grocery staples," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said on an earnings call in May. "For many of these items, we were selling in two or three hours what we normally sell in two or three days."

Like other retailers, Walmart has struggled to compete with Amazon. Amazon launched its Prime membership service in 2005, and it now has more than 150 million members globally. 

Walmart has unveiled several new services to try and keep up with Amazon, including free one-day delivery options and an “InHome” service in which a Walmart delivery person comes to a consumer’s home and puts their order of fresh products directly in the refrigerator.

Walmart hasn’t said whether its new membership program will first launch on a national or regional level. 

Walmart is reportedly planning to launch a membership program called Walmart+ later this month. The program will include many facets that mirror Amazon Pri...
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Walmart to discontinue its online subsidiary Jet.com

The company has announced that its shutting down the website four years after purchasing it

Walmart has announced that it’s shuttering Jet.com, which it purchased in 2016 for $3 billion.

The retailer said in its first-quarter earnings report that the acquisition of Jet.com “was critical to accelerating our omni strategy.” However, Walmart will be discontinuing the online marketplace “due to the continued strength of the Walmart.com brand.” 

Since acquiring Jet.com, Walmart -- like many other retailers who have attempted to grow their online sales -- has faced competition from e-commerce giant Amazon. 

Walmart’s recent efforts to head off competition from Amazon have included expanding its two-hour Express Delivery service to nearly 2,000 stores across the U.S. through the end of May. It’s also been reported that Walmart may be gearing up to test a subscription service similar to Amazon Prime. 

Looking ahead 

In its earnings report, Walmart said online sales increased by 74 percent year-over-year “with strong results for grocery pickup and delivery services, walmart.com and marketplace,” in part due to the sudden increase in consumers shopping online due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Despite the current boom in online sales, Walmart appears to be focusing on a path to long-term success. In 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart’s online division lost roughly $2 billion in one fiscal year. Axing Jet.com is likely a bid at avoiding future uncertainty after the pandemic is over. 

“Our business fundamentals are strong, and our financial position is excellent. Customers trust us to deliver on our brand promise, and I’m confident in our ability to perform well in most any environment,” said Brett Biggs, Walmart Inc. chief financial officer. “While the short-term environment will be challenging, we’re positioned well for long-term success in an increasingly omni world.” 

Walmart has announced that it’s shuttering Jet.com, which it purchased in 2016 for $3 billion.The retailer said in its first-quarter earnings report th...
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Walmart has hired more than 100,000 new workers in recent weeks

The retailer has seen an interesting change in demand for products

With the coronavirus continuing to drive up demand for items such as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, Walmart has hired more than 100,000 new workers in the past three weeks. 

In mid-March, Walmart announced that it was looking to fill 150,000 positions.

“We’ll easily hit the 150,000,” Dan Bartlett, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, told CNBC’s Courtney Reagan. “We’ll do an assessment to see if we need to do more.”

Providing fall-back job opportunities

While most of the jobs are temporary, about 10-15 percent are permanent, Bartlett said. Most employees are working for Walmart in order to make ends meet “until their traditional jobs come back online,” he said.

“People are keeping their eye on the horizon to see when industry and when the economy will crank back up. But in the meantime, they’re providing a critical service, and we welcome them with open arms,” Bartlett said. 

Walmart said Thursday that demand has remained strong since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Bartlett said paper goods “are still under pressure,” adding that the retailer is selling enough toilet paper over a five-day period to allow every U.S. citizen to have their own roll. 

The company said that while toilet paper continues to fly off shelves, other products have also risen in popularity.

“All the do-it-yourself types of items like hair coloring and beard trimmers are selling quite well,” he said. “Sewing machines are flying off the shelf as well because a lot of people are selling and making their own masks at their house.” 

With the coronavirus continuing to drive up demand for items such as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, Walmart has hired more than 100,000 new workers i...
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Walmart is reportedly preparing a membership program aimed at Amazon Prime

The program could include free shipping and other perks

Walmart appears to have abandoned its free, no-membership approach to compete with Amazon Prime.

The retailer is reportedly preparing to take on Amazon with its own paid membership program with the free shipping that Prime includes, along with other perks. Walmart has beefed up its online business over the last few years but has yet to catch up to Amazon.

According to a report by technology site Vox, Walmart will soon start testing Walmart+, in part by rebranding its Delivery Unlimited service. That service currently charges customers $98 a year for unlimited same-day grocery deliveries at more than 1,600 Walmart locations. The report says the retailer may also test a feature that would allow Walmart+ members to place orders using a text message.

But Amazon Prime offers more than just free two-day shipping, and in some cases one-day delivery. Members get access to streaming video through Prime Video and to a streaming music service.

Walmart also reportedly plans to sweeten its deal with additional perks. According to Vox, those perks could include discounts on prescription drugs and gasoline at Walmart fueling stations.

Walmart has made no official announcement of its plans, but a company spokesman confirmed that a membership program was indeed in the works in a statement to Vox.

Prime’s rise

When Amazon launched Prime in 2005, few could see what a powerful force in the retail economy it would become. For an annual fee of $119 a year, members get free expedited shipping on their orders.

For many consumers, knowing that delivery won’t cost anything has made Amazon the go-to place to shop. When Amazon sweetened the deal with entertainment services, it almost became irresistible.

Amazon Prime currently has a global membership of more than 150 million and, besides the free expedited shipping, it offers same-day delivery from Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh.

Walmart in recent years has made Amazon its prime target. It has increased delivery services and made a point of saying that it doesn’t require a membership. In 2019, the retailer appeared to be making some headway.

A 2019 survey by First Insight, a retail analytics firm, found that 55 percent of consumers preferred shopping at Walmart rather than Amazon.com. That was an increase from 47 percent in 2018.

Walmart appears to have abandoned its free, no-membership approach to compete with Amazon Prime.The retailer is reportedly preparing to take on Amazon...
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More shoppers are starting to prefer Walmart over Amazon

A new report suggests the ‘novelty’ of Amazon is fading

Consumers are increasingly shopping at Walmart instead of Amazon, according to a new survey by First Insight. The retail analytics firm polled 1,000 consumers and found that 55 percent prefer shopping at Walmart rather than Amazon.com. 

In 2018, the same survey found that 47 percent preferred Walmart. First Insight found that the percentage of people who favor Amazon has fallen to 45 percent from about 53 percent last year. 

“The excitement of the Amazon box coming to your house is kind of dwindling off,” First Insight CEO Greg Petro told CNBC. “I think the novelty of Amazon is wearing off.”

Going head-to-head with Amazon

Walmart and other retailers have been struggling to keep up with Amazon, which earlier this year promised even speedier deliveries. The company also recently announced plans to start delivering grocery products for free within a two-hour window to Prime members in regions eligible for its Amazon Fresh service. 

Prior to the announcement that Amazon Fresh would become free for eligible members, Walmart announced that it had begun testing a program that delivered groceries directly to people’s refrigerators. The retailer has also established more than 2,700 grocery pickup locations for online orders across the U.S.

″[Walmart’s] speed is allowing them to leapfrog and get hyper-competitive with Amazon in a short period of time,” Petro told CNBC. 

Holiday deal battle

The publication noted that the “true test” could come this holiday season. 

Walmart and Amazon have both already started offering deals ahead of the holiday season, which is a few days shorter this year due to a quirk in the calendar. Black Friday falls on November 29, leaving 25 days before December 25.

Walmart unveiled its holiday shopping deals online on October 25 -- the earliest any major retailer has begun rolling out its discounts normally reserved for the days leading up to Black Friday.

“Saving our customers time is also paramount at this time of year, especially with fewer days to get ready for big family meals, parties and gift-giving,” Steve Bratspies, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer of Walmart, said in a statement. “We’re making sure this season is the easiest yet for our customers with nine tech-enabled ways to shop for everyone on their list – when and how they want.”

Amazon still preferred by some consumers

While Walmart appears to be winning over -- or winning back -- many shoppers, some consumers have said Amazon’s online marketplace has an edge over Walmart’s. 

ConsumerAffairs reviewer Martine of Hempstead, New York said last month that while Walmart has good prices, “their search engine is horrible and cannot seem to process more than 1 or 2 filters without messing up the search results.” 

“Furthermore, better prices can often be found on Amazon and the items are often coming from the same third party seller,” Martine added. “Walmart is trying to compete with Amazon with their next day delivery, but I haven't been able to get my time right in terms of ordering early enough to get that option even if the items are marked 'next day delivery' eligible; also, Walmart's 2 day delivery isn't as good as Amazon's.” 

Consumers are increasingly shopping at Walmart instead of Amazon, according to a new survey by First Insight. The retail analytics firm polled 1,000 consum...
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Walmart gets an early start on the holiday shopping season

The retailer will start offering deals before Halloween

Walmart is getting a jump on Black Friday by rolling out holiday shopping deals before Halloween.

In announcing its move, the retailer points out that there are fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas because of a quirk in the calendar. Black Friday falls on November 29, leaving 25 days before December 25.

“Saving our customers time is also paramount at this time of year, especially with fewer days to get ready for big family meals, parties and gift-giving,” said Steve Bratspies, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. “We’re making sure this season is the easiest yet for our customers with nine tech-enabled ways to shop for everyone on their list – when and how they want.”

Walmart will begin revealing its holiday shopping deals on October 25. Called the “early deals drop,” the promotion will be available online.

Earliest ever

Walmart says October 25 is the earliest any major retailer has begun rolling out its discounts that are normally reserved for the days leading up to Black Friday. It promises deals on electronics, gaming, toys, home, and sporting goods.

In a preview, Walmart says consumers can expect to see savings on the BouncePro 7-foot My First Trampoline, the Faberware 3.2 quart digital oil-less fryer, and an array of TV sets.

At the same time, Walmart says it is introducing new technology to make shopping easier and simpler. Among the new features for the holiday season are:

  • Gift Finder: A new way to search for gifts on Walmart.com, with gift options for 40 different types of gift recipients. Customers provide information based on the recipient and their price range and are served up personalized recommendations so they can choose the best gift for anyone on their list, even the hardest to shop for.

  • Scannable Toy Catalog: Customers using iOS devices can use their phones to shop for the hottest toys of the season right from the pages of Walmart’s seasonal toy catalog. 

  • Free NextDay Delivery: Customers can order from up to hundreds of thousands of eligible items and have them delivered to their house the very next day without a membership fee.

  • Expanded Check Out With Me: This feature is now available in all Walmart Supercenters, allowing customers to avoid lines at the register and check out with an associate right where they are shopping, like in Santaland in the garden center, the electronics department or near the registers.

Competing with Target’s new association with Disney, resulting in Disney stores in 25 Target locations, Walmart is also putting new emphasis on in-store experiences. Over the next few weeks, Walmart says it will host themed events from some of this year’s popular movies, including Pokemon, Star Wars, and Frozen 2.

Walmart is getting a jump on Black Friday by rolling out holiday shopping deals before Halloween.In announcing its move, the retailer points out that t...
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Walmart introduces program to cut prices on select third-party items on its website

The company will be subsidizing the price difference

Walmart plans to temporarily offer sales on items from third-party vendors on its website in an effort to compete with Amazon, Bloomberg reports. 

The vendors “will still be paid the same amount that was listed before the cuts, with Walmart subsidizing the difference,” Bloomberg said, citing confirmation of the plan’s description from a company spokesperson. 

The program is similar to one launched by Amazon several years ago. "Discount provided by Amazon," which launched ahead of the holiday shopping season in 2017, reduced the prices of third-party products without taking a cut of the money received by sellers. 

More recently, Amazon introduced “Sold by Amazon,” which allows invited sellers to grant the company permission to reduce prices on their products in exchange for a guaranteed payout. Amazon described the program as a “new, hands off the wheel selling experience” that gives sellers “peace of mind that they will never receive less than the agreed upon amount for that product.”

Walmart’s new sales plan, called the “Competitive Price Adjustment” (CPA) program, will similarly be applied on an invite-only basis to “selected sellers and selected items only,” according to Bloomberg. 

"It's a no-brainer," Juozas Kaziukenas, founder of data tracker Marketplace Pulse, told Bloomberg. "They give up some revenue, but it buys them sales instead."

Walmart plans to temporarily offer sales on items from third-party vendors on its website in an effort to compete with Amazon, Bloomberg reports. The v...
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Walmart moving away from gun and ammunition sales

The retailer has decided to end sales of certain guns and ammunition following ‘two horrific events in one week’

Walmart said on Tuesday that it will be limiting sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of a series of deadly shootings.  

In a company memo, Walmart announced that it will cease sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition and handgun ammunition after it’s current inventory is gone. The retailer will also end handgun sales in Alaska, which will mark Walmart’s "complete exit from handguns."

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the chain’s decision to reduce sales of guns and ammunition was spurred by a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, as well as an incident just a few days earlier at another location in Southaven, Mississippi.

"In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again," he said. "The status quo is unacceptable."

Still catering to hunters and sportsman

While Walmart will be halting the sale of certain types of ammunition, the retailer said it will continue to “treat law-abiding customers with respect” with a “very non-confrontational approach.” 

"Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts,” McMillon said.

Going forward, the retail giant is asking shoppers not to openly carry firearms at any of its stores, including those located in states that allow open carry. 

Walmart is also urging Congress to develop “common sense” gun safety measures in light of recent incidents, which have included mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and Midland and Odessa, Texas. 

"We encourage our nation's leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger," McMillon said. "Congress and the administration should act. Given our decades of experience selling firearms, we are also offering to serve as a resource in the national debate on responsible gun sales."

Walmart said on Tuesday that it will be limiting sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of a series of deadly shootings.  In a company memo, Walmart...
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Walmart settles corruption charges with the SEC

The retailer was accused of failing to adequately police its foreign operations

Walmart has reached a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which completes an investigation of the retailer’s international operations.

The company will pay fines totaling $282 million to settle charges that it violated provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which governs how U.S. corporations deal with foreign governments.

The settlement, announced by both parties, ends a seven-year investigation that began when Walmart alerted U.S. regulators that it might have violated the law.

The settlement relates to Walmart’s anti-corruption internal controls in Brazil, Mexico, India, and China prior to April 2011. Walmart says it conducted a thorough internal investigation and cooperated with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the SEC.

“We’re pleased to resolve this matter,” said Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon. “Walmart is committed to doing business the right way, and that means acting ethically everywhere we operate.”

McMillon said the company has enhanced its policies, procedures, and systems and invested significant resources into ethics and compliance.

“We want to be the most trusted retailer, and a key to this is maintaining our culture of integrity,” McMillon said.

Failures in oversight

The SEC said Walmart suffered failures in oversight of its foreign operations and did not sufficiently investigate anti-corruption risks. The agency said the retailer allowed subsidiaries in Brazil, China, India, and Mexico to employ third-party intermediaries who made payments to foreign government officials without reasonable assurances that they complied with the FCPA.

“Walmart valued international growth and cost-cutting over compliance,” said Charles Cain, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit. “The company could have avoided many of these problems, but instead Walmart repeatedly failed to take red flags seriously and delayed the implementation of appropriate internal accounting controls.”

While settling with the SEC, Walmart also entered into a non-prosecution agreement with DOJ. That agency has agreed not to prosecute Walmart if the company meets its obligations under the agreement for the next three years.

Walmart has reached a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which completes an investigation of the retailer’s international operati...
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Walmart to launch delivery service that puts groceries in shoppers’ refrigerators

Company employees will use smart entry technology to get into customers’ homes

Later this year, Walmart will launch a new grocery delivery service called inHome Delivery, which will take the idea of home delivery “one step further.”

After a customer places their order online and selects a delivery day, one of Walmart’s employees will deliver fresh groceries and put them directly in the customer’s refrigerator.

In a blog post, the company explained that its workers will be able to access the customer’s home through the use of smart entry technology. Additionally, employees will wear a wearable camera to give security-conscious consumers a way to see the delivery happening in real-time.

“At the time of delivery, associates will use smart entry technology and a proprietary, wearable camera to access the customer’s home – allowing customers to control access into their homes and giving them the ability to watch the deliveries remotely,” wrote Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart's U.S. e-commerce division.

Walmart workers will also receive training that will prepare them to “enter customers’ homes with the same care and respect with which they would treat a friend's or family’s home,” as well as how to select the freshest groceries and efficiently arrange the items in the refrigerator.

"Now, we can serve customers not in just the last mile, but in the last 15 feet," Lore said.

Launching in three cities

The new service will roll out to more than one million customers in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Missouri, and Vero Beach, Florida starting this fall. Soon after that, Walmart says it will begin accepting returns for items purchased through the service.

“Customers can just leave them on the counter and their InHome Delivery associate will return the items on their behalf,” Walmart said.

Amazon has already launched a similar service, called Amazon Key. The service allows Prime members who have purchased an Amazon Key-compatible smart lock and Amazon Cloud Cam to have deliveries deposited inside their home, even when they aren’t there. However, consumers can’t have groceries delivered through Amazon’s in-home delivery service.

Later this year, Walmart will launch a new grocery delivery service called inHome Delivery, which will take the idea of home delivery “one step further.”...
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Walmart announces free one-day shipping on select items

The retailer plans to offer the service nationwide before the end of the year

In a shot fired across Amazon’s bow, Walmart has announced the launch of one-day delivery on a wide range of general merchandise from Walmart.com, with a minimum purchase.

The service is rolling out first to consumers in Phoenix and Las Vegas, with plans to expand it to  Southern California next. Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S., says NextDay delivery will roll out gradually over the coming months, with a plan to reach approximately 75 percent of the U.S. population by the end of the year. Lore says that will include 40 of the top 50 major U.S. metro areas.

“Walmart’s NextDay delivery offers a stand-alone, curated shopping experience where customers can browse up to 220,000 of the items most frequently purchased, ranging from diapers and laundry detergent to toys and electronics, with more assortment to be added,” Lore said in a statement. “It is available on eligible orders of $35 or more, with the specific assortment varying by customer location.”

Keeping up with Amazon

The move follows Amazon’s announcement in late April that it intends to make one-day delivery the default for Prime members, who currently pay $119 a year for free two-day shipping, along with other perks.

Amazon said it had already planned to invest $800 million in the second quarter to make the change, but it didn’t provide a time frame for the launch of the shortened shipping plan.

“It will take us a significant amount of time to achieve,” said Amazon’s CFO Brian Olsavsky on a conference call with analysts. “We want to ensure we have good delivery experience for our customers as we evolve this offer.”

No membership fee

In announcing its plans, Walmart underscored the fact that its new shipping service will be available to all consumers and will not require a membership fee. The company said a customer need only go to Walmart.com and click the NextDay delivery tab to view items that are available for one-day delivery.

“After adding items to their cart, the customer proceeds to checkout,” Lore said. “Everything in the cart must be eligible for NextDay delivery to qualify. Cut-off times vary by location.”

Lore said the company will benefit along with customers. He said delivering items in one day will actually save money because the eligible items will come from a single fulfillment center located in close proximity to the customer. The order is more likely to come in one box and travel the shortest distance, two factors that contribute to shipping costs.

In a shot fired across Amazon’s bow, Walmart has announced the launch of one-day delivery on a wide range of general merchandise from Walmart.com, with a m...
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Walmart to bump minimum tobacco-buying age to 21

The new policy will go into effect in July

Beginning July 1, consumers looking to purchase tobacco or e-cigarette products at Walmart or Sam’s Club will have to be at least 21 years old.

The retailer announced this week that it’s raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products as part of a larger effort being made by regulators to reduce teen nicotine addiction. In addition to raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products, Walmart will stop selling e-cigarettes in sweet flavors, which have been found to appeal to teen users.

Walmart said the new policy is intended to improve its less-than-perfect track record regarding sales of tobacco products to minors. In a letter recently sent to Walmart, the FDA said it conducted 13,000 compliance checks since 2010 and Walmart passed only 93 percent of them.

"While we have implemented a robust compliance program, we are not satisfied with falling short of our company-wide goal of 100% compliance," the company wrote. "Even a single sale to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard."

Increasing the minimum buying age

The FDA, which has described the dramatic rise in e-cigarette use among teens as an “epidemic,” threatened earlier this year to fine Walmart, Kroger, and several convenience store chains for illegally selling tobacco products to minors.

In response to the warning, Walgreens announced in April that it will increase the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 starting September 1.

Lawmakers in several states have also sought to address the issue by raising the minimum tobacco-buying age to 21 under a new policy dubbed “Tobacco 21.” The initiative aims, in part, to prevent the tobacco industry from “recruiting young adults as replacement smokers” in an effort to sustain their business.

Beginning July 1, consumers looking to purchase tobacco or e-cigarette products at Walmart or Sam’s Club will have to be at least 21 years old. The ret...
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Walmart offering subscription box service for children’s apparel

Each box contains items tailored to the current season and children’s style preferences

Walmart has announced that it’s partnering with subscription-box company Kidbox to launch a subscription box service specifically for baby and children’s clothing.

The retailer’s online shoppers will be able to purchase as many as six personalized, seasonally appropriate boxes of children’s apparel each year. The platform’s “stylists” curate each box by taking into account shopper’s responses to a short style quiz.

Each box contains four to five items of apparel for around $48. Walmart says the cost of each box is about 50 percent off the suggested retail price for the group of bundled items. After receiving the box, parents can either keep all the items or return everything for a full refund.

Growing its apparel business

The launch of the subscription box for children’s clothing joins other efforts by Walmart to expand its online apparel offerings.

Last May, the company announced that it was teaming up with Lord & Taylor to add premium brands to its website. Walmart has also added more than 100 brands to its children’s apparel lineup over the past year, including Betsey Johnson, The Children’s Place, Kapital K, Levi’s, and Limited Too.

“Walmart has done a lot over the past year to establish itself as a go-to retailer for all things fashion, and we’re honored to partner with the retailer to expand its kids’ assortment online, while also saving parents time and offering them the value and convenience of a stylebox,” said Miki Berardelli, Kidbox CEO, in a statement. “At Kidbox, we pride ourselves on understanding kids’ fashion preferences while also creating moments for them to learn about the importance of giving back,” she added.

Competing with Amazon

Walmart’s new partnership with Kidbox comes just a few months after Gymboree declared bankruptcy and said it planned to close 800 Gymboree and Crazy 8 stores.

Walmart and other retailers are continuing to shift their strategies in an effort to compete with Amazon, as well as fill the void left by retailers who were unable to adapt to changing consumer preferences.

“Our partnership with Kidbox enables us to round out our offering with additional national and premium kids’ brands,” said Denise Incandela, head of fashion for Walmart’s e-commerce business in the U.S.

Walmart has announced that it’s partnering with subscription-box company Kidbox to launch a subscription box service specifically for baby and children’s c...
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Walmart to increase reliance on ‘automated assistants’

Robots will take care of the ‘more mundane and repetitive tasks,’ which will give associates more time to spend with customers

Walmart announced plans today to expand its reliance on in-store technology -- such as floor-scrubbing robots, so-called “Fast Unloaders,” and new Pickup Towers -- in an effort to give employees more time to focus on other tasks.

“Smart assistants have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly, so Walmart has been pioneering new technologies to minimize the time an associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks like cleaning floors or checking inventory on a shelf,” the retailer said in a statement.

“This gives associates more of an opportunity to do what they’re uniquely qualified for: serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor,” the company added.

Walmart’s push to rely more heavily on technology will involve the rollout of 1,500 new autonomous floor cleaners (called "Auto-C”), 300 additional shelf scanners (called "Auto-S), 1,200 more FAST Unloaders that automatically scan and sort items from trucks, and 900 more Pickup Towers that will assist in retrieving customers’ online orders.

“When a customer receives a notification via email that the item is available, they can use the Pickup Tower like a giant vending machine to retrieve their purchase,” Walmart said of its new Pickup Towers.

Expanding reliance on technology

In December, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said it planned to bring robotic floor scrubbers to 360 stores by the end of January 2019. In its latest announcement, Walmart said it’s bumping up that figure; it plans to deploy the technology at 1,500 additional locations this year.

The retailer said last year that it had debuted 30 Fast Unloaders in the U.S. and that it was on track to add 10 more each week. That figure also ballooned significantly in the latest announcement, with the company now saying 1,200 more are being added to stores.

Walmart promises that customers will benefit from its increased reliance on robots.

“It means a store that can function seamlessly and associates who are there when customers need them. It also means the items are on shelves where the customers expect in smarter stores all over the country,” the retailer said.

The company said the technology will be deployed in U.S. stores “soon.”

Walmart announced plans today to expand its reliance on in-store technology -- such as floor-scrubbing robots, so-called “Fast Unloaders,” and new Pickup T...
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Walmart and Google launch their order and delivery game

Consumers looking to use the new service would be smart to take a quick refresher course

“Hey, Google, I need some milk.”

And voila -- a half-gallon appears on your doorstep, right?

Close.

We’re not at the genie-in-a-bottle point in technology yet, but Google and Walmart have officially launched their make-life-easier initiative using Google Assistant in tandem with Walmart’s grocery pickup and delivery -- a plan that’s spent the last year and a half in the incubator.

“Hey, Google -- say hello to Walmart Voice Order.”

“With the new voice ordering capabilities we’re building across platforms with partners like Google, we’re helping customers simply say the word to have Walmart help them shop … literally,” blogged Tom Ward, Walmart U.S.’s senior vice president of Digital Operations.

Ward noted that the service is currently in limited release, but he has intimated that the new functionality will help consumers quickly shop for the items they need.

“Sometime later this month, customers can say, ‘Hey Google, talk to Walmart’ and the Google Assistant will add items directly to their Walmart Grocery cart,” said Ward. “Best of all, customers can be extra confident that we can quickly and accurately identify the items they are asking for with the help of information from their prior purchases with us. The more you use it, the better we’ll get.”

Walmart’s timing couldn’t be better. Ranging from Sony and LG TVs to Guess watches, Google Assistant is integrated into an insane number of digital devices. According to 9to5Google, that number increased 600 percent over the past year and is on target to be part and parcel of 1 billion devices by the end of 2019.

How easy is this going to be?

With the Spiderman-like ascent Google Assistant has made in the last year, it’s likely you already have the app on some device you use. However, if you don’t, Google suggests the following tips for helping you get caught up:

  • Make sure you have Google Assistant installed on the device you use most often. For most consumers, that would be the phone. While Assistant is “cross-platform,” it’s not necessarily a given that it will be on every brand. iPhone users, in particular, should double-check to see if it’s installed on theirs.

  • Invest a few minutes to better understand how Walmart and Assistant work together. You can visit the Walmart overview on Assistant’s site, or watch Walmart’s how-to video.

  • To jumpstart your Assistant’s connection with Walmart, do a simple command like “OK Google, ask Walmart to add bananas to my cart.” That will get the ball rolling in the right direction.

  • Patience and product specifics are important to start. Like Ward said -- “The more you use it, the better we’ll get,” meaning that if a customer says “add milk to my cart,” Walmart wants to make sure it adds the specific milk the customer buys regularly. Once Walmart knows the exact type of milk you want, consumers will only have to say “milk” instead of saying “1 gallon of 1 percent Great Value organic milk.”

  • Don’t worry about doing it all in one sitting. “We know when using voice technology, customers like to add items to their cart one at a time over a few days -- not complete their shopping for the week all at once. So, this capability aligns with the way customers shop,” Walmart wrote.

Are Walmart and Google in an exclusive relationship?

Technology partnerships have to start somewhere, and Walmart chose to dance with Google first.

“We’re kicking off the work with Google, adding others to the mix as time goes on,” Ward said. “Over the next few weeks, the service will roll to more and more customers. We can’t wait to hear what they think about it and how it’s making shopping easier for them.”

“Hey, Google, I need some milk.”And voila -- a half-gallon appears on your doorstep, right?Close.We’re not at the genie-in-a-bottle point in te...
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Walmart sweetens the pot for its truck drivers

The mega-retailer is hiring hundreds of new truck drivers thanks to its best sales in a decade

On average, truck drivers take home a nice check. In 2017, truck drivers in the United States earned 56 cents a mile, $21.97 an hour, or $44,500 a year, significantly better than recent minimum wage initiatives.

If a truck driver is lucky enough to be one of the 8,000 that carry loads for Walmart, they’re taking home a wow-worthy $86,000 in his or her first year. Now, Walmart’s truckers’ deal is about to get a lot sweeter.

On Wednesday, Walmart announced that its fleet drivers will get a penny more a mile plus an extra $1 each time they drop off their trailer at a designated location. Drivers in the Northeast are on tap to get a 5 percent raise on both mileage and other trucking activities.

If you’re scoffing at that penny raise, don’t; that’s because it adds up to about an extra $1,500 a year. And, while you’re at it, tack on perks of 21 days of paid time off and quarterly bonuses.

Walmart can afford this

One thing you have to keep in mind is that Walmart is upping its investment in self-driving trucks which, if successful, could save the company millions. CleanTechnica reported that fuel savings for Walmart’s self-driving trucks could be as much as $200,000 for every million miles traveled.

With the company enjoying its biggest sales results in a decade, Walmart is putting the hammer down to fill hundreds of job openings fueled by that growth.

“These hiring events are both improving the skill level of our candidates and enriching their onboarding experience,” said Lori Furnell, Walmart’s director of driver talent acquisition. “We’re leaning heavily on the expertise of our Walmart road team and our certified driver trainers to grow our skilled fleet of professional drivers.”

Fancy yourself a truck driver?

To qualify for Walmart’s onboarding, drivers have to have 30 months of experience in the past three years under their belt and a clean safety record to boot.

“Walmart’s fleet has a reputation for high standards and that can be intimidating,” Faller said. “But you see people getting emotional after the process they go through here, and I think that’s largely because they can sense that we’re here in it with them and we’re committed to their success. I don’t think you get that elsewhere in the industry.”

On average, truck drivers take home a nice check. In 2017, truck drivers in the United States earned 56 cents a mile, $21.97 an hour, or $44,500 a year, si...
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Walmart is adding 2,000 high-tech workers in 2019

The company plans to use technology to improve online and in-store shopping experiences

Walmart has given another hint that it plans to increase its competition with Amazon in e-commerce and in technology in general. The world’s largest brick and mortar retailer says it will staff up in 2019 to improve its technology, not just online but also in stores.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Walmart Chief Technology Officer Jeremy King revealed that the company plans to hire 2,000 people to join the retail technology group. That group currently employs about 7,500 people.

The new employees will work in areas such as design, software engineering, and data collection and analysis. They’ll join about 1,700 new Walmart employees in that group who joined the company last year.

The increase in hiring in this area shouldn’t come as a surprise since Walmart spent much of 2018 deploying robots in its stores to help with maintenance and inventory control. Someone, after all, has to oversee the electronic workers.

Other new employees will work on developing algorithms that will help employees fill online orders faster by outlining the best routes to take when moving through the aisles. Walmart offers curbside grocery pickup in more than 2,000 stores in the U.S. and hopes to add it to as many as 1,000 more this year.

Competing with Amazon for talent

The new employees will work in high-tech centers both in the U.S. and Asia as Walmart appears to be ready to compete with Amazon to sign the best technology talent.

The new technology group employees won’t be working on a system to replace cashiers, such as Amazon’s cashierless stores. King says that is not currently practical for Walmart.

“We’re talking about a huge scale,” King told Bloomberg. “Those sort of 7-Eleven-size stores [that Amazon operates] are one thing but when you talk about a Walmart Supercenter, it’s going to be some time before we can go completely cashierless.”

But King did say that the company is continuing to work on expanding the number of ways customers can check out without standing in line.

Walmart has given another hint that it plans to increase its competition with Amazon in e-commerce and in technology in general. The world’s largest brick...
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Bernie Sanders takes aim at Walmart

Senator introduces bill to force big retailers to raise workers' wages

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation to prevent the nation's largest retailer from buying its own stock until it raises workers' wages.

The bill, called the Stop Walmart Act, actually targets all large publicly traded corporations. It would prevent companies from buying their shares on Wall Street unless they pay all employees at least $15 an hour.

Sanders and bill co-sponsor Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) say Walmart plans to use its profits to purchase $20 billion of its own stock over the next two years when it could be using the money to raise the standard of living for its employees.

Stock buybacks are common among large companies since it generally boosts the companies' stock price. It benefits shareholders, as well as the company, which sees the value of its stock holdings go higher. Stock buybacks usually increase the value of a company's stock while raising workers' wages often reduces profit margins, which sends stock prices lower.

In recent years, most publicly traded companies, including Apple, have embraced stock buybacks as the preferred method of returning cash to shareholders. Another method is the payment of dividends.

Takes aim at Walton family

Sanders made his proposal unusually personal, pointing out the family of Walmart founder Sam Walton owns 50 percent of Walmart stock with a reputed net worth of around $180 billion. Sanders claims 55 percent of Walmart employees are food insecure.

“While tens of thousands of Walmart workers are struggling to survive, Alice Walton had no problem amassing a private art collection worth half a billion dollars," Sanders said. "Enough is enough. The time is long overdue for the Walton family to pay its workers a living wage. If large, profitable corporations like Amazon and Disney can pay all of their workers a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, so can Walmart."

The measure, which has little chance of passage in a Republican-controlled Senate and being signed by a Republican president, also would require Walmart and other large publicly traded companies to allow employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave to be used to care for themselves or a family member.

It would also place controls on executive pay, limiting the CEO's salary to 150 times the median pay of the company's employees.

At the beginning of this year, Walmart raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour. Since then, however, Amazon has boosted worker pay to at least $15 an hour.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation to prevent the nation's largest retailer from buying its own stock until it raises workers' wages....
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Walmart extends free shipping to third-party sellers' products

The retailer says it is also simplifying the return process

In a bid for more online holiday shoppers, Walmart is extending free two-day shipping to millions of items sold by third-party marketplace sellers.

The eligible products will be shipped to customers under the same terms as those sold directly by Walmart if the order is for at least $35.

Starting in mid-November, customers purchasing from Walmart.com won't have to check to see if the items they are buying are coming directly from Walmart or from a third-party seller. If the items in a customer's cart are eligible for free two-day shipping and the total order is more than $35, Walmart pays for the shipping.

In early 2017, Walmart launched its free two-day shipping program to counter Amazon's growing Prime membership, which costs more than $100 a year. Walmart took every opportunity in its marketing materials to point out free shipping is available to all customers, just so long as their order totals at least $35.

Simplified return process

Now, that program is being extended to many of the items third-party marketplace sellers  market through Walmart.com. As part of the program's expansion, Walmart says it's also simplifying the process for returns.

"All a customer has to do is log in to his or her Walmart account, print out a return label and ship back to the seller," the company said in a blog post. "This experience is beginning to roll out now."

Customers who purchase products from third-party marketplace sellers will also have the option of returning the items to most Walmart stores. Customers will be required to package the items for shipping before taking them to the nearest Walmart store.

Walmart will then ship the item back to the seller, and the customer will receive a refund directly from the seller.

The move comes just before the start of the holiday shopping season in which the stakes for retailers have never been higher. Both Walmart and Target have taken steps in the last 12 months to improve their competitive position against Amazon.

In a bid for more online holiday shoppers, Walmart is extending free two-day shipping to millions of items sold by third-party marketplace sellers.The...
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Walmart agrees to pay $65 million for cashier class action

The retailer will settle over its failure to provide seats for its California cashiers

The end of a long-running class action lawsuit involving the lack of seating for Walmart cashiers could be near now that Walmart has agreed to pay $65 million as part of a proposed settlement.

The suit, originally filed by former Walmart employee Nisha Brown in 2009, alleges that the retailer has been in violation of a 2001 California wage order that determines employees must be given “suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits.”

If approved, about 100,000 current and former California Walmart cashiers are eligible to receive a portion of the payout, depending on how long they were employed, The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

Walmart’s counterargument

Walmart doesn’t agree that it’s in the wrong regarding the matter. The retailer has maintained that the nature of work as a cashier doesn’t permit cashiers to sit down.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company has argued that cashiers need to move around to greet customers, stock shelves, and bag items. Among other reasons, the company says cashiers are less efficient when they sit down, customers prefer standing cashiers, and providing seating to cashiers would lead to a loss of revenue, according to the LA Times.

As part of the settlement, Walmart will commit to beginning a pilot program that would provide stools to cashiers “who express a desire to use them.” The retail giant would also promise not to discriminate or retaliate against workers who choose to sit down.

“Both sides are pleased to have reached a proposed resolution,” Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in a statement, noting that a judge still has to approve the settlement amount.

If approved, any California cashier employed by Walmart between June 11, 2008 and the date the settlement is approved would be eligible to claim part of the settlement money.

The end of a long-running class action lawsuit involving the lack of seating for Walmart cashiers could be near now that Walmart has agreed to pay $65 mill...
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Walmart is looking to replace Toys 'R' Us

The chain is gearing up for the first holiday season without its toy giant competitor

With Toys “R” Us having permanently closed its doors nationwide, the market for toys is certainly any retailers’ game.

However, Walmart is hoping to become shoppers’ go-to location for all things toys, especially as the holiday season approaches -- the first without Toys “R” Us in many years.

The world’s largest retailer will be ramping up its toy selection both online and in stores in preparation for the holidays. The toy selection in stores will be increased by 30 percent, while the toy selection online will increase by 40 percent.

Consumers can expect hands-on demos of toys in-store, in addition to hundreds of new brands that will soon be available both in stores and online. Moreover, Walmart will soon be partnering with young YouTube star Ryan (“Ryan’s World”) to produce a line of toys that he recommends.

It’s not just toys. Walmart will soon be expanding its retail options for babies, as the nursery page on its website is undergoing a redesign, and the options for car seats and strollers are being upgraded.

“We are making even bigger investments in the category to ensure we have the widest selection,” said Anne Marie Kehoe, Walmart’s vice president of toys.

Competitors with similar ideas

Walmart isn’t the only company looking to up its game in the wake of Toys “R” Us’ demise.

Both JCPenney and Kohl’s have announced additions to their baby and toy offerings in recent weeks, while Party City plans to open nearly 50 toy pop up shops.

“It is likely that the Toys ‘R’ Us news has kept toys top-of-mind for parents and grandparents when shopping for kids,” said Juli Lennett, a senior vice president and industry advisor for toys at NPD Group.

Experts in the field think Walmart has a good shot at capitalizing on Toys “R” Us’ mistakes, as studies have shown that Walmart and Target shoppers have the most overlap with former Toys “R” Us shoppers.

Target has taken a similar path as Walmart by increasing its toy options in stores, with the company reporting double-digit sales growth just in toys.

“Given the strong affinity between families with young children and our brand, both toys and [baby] are key categories for us,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell.

Toys “R” Us’ decline

Back in January, Toys “R” Us announced it would be closing 180 of its stores in an effort to reorganize the business under bankruptcy protection. The toy chain filed for bankruptcy in September of 2017, as it needed to restructure $5 billion worth of debt.

The pressure came from retailers like Amazon and Walmart, who were more competitive to consumers -- particularly in online offerings.

By March, the company announced all of its U.S. stores would be closing. Toys “R” Us was unable to find a buyer or restructure its debt. The company was confident that the 2017 holiday season would help it return to profitability, as it announced the hiring of thousands of seasonal employees. However, sales came in way under expectations, thus prompting the initial closing of stores in January of 2018.

With Toys “R” Us having permanently closed its doors nationwide, the market for toys is certainly any retailers’ game.However, Walmart is hoping to bec...
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Walmart removing some paint remover products from store shelves

Products containing methylene chloride are suspected of toxicity

Walmart says it is phasing out paint removal products long criticized by environmentalists as being toxic to humans.

Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies the products as legal, Walmart says it will stop selling paint-stripping products with the chemicals methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) at U.S. stores, as well as stores in Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

Walmart joins Lowe's, Home Depot, and Sherwin-Williams in taking that step. Walmart says all such products will be removed by February 2019.

The retailer said it is reacting to customers' expectations and notes the company has worked with suppliers and industry groups in other areas of sustainability. Nearly a decade ago it stopped selling plastic children's products containing Bisphenol A (BPA).

Zach Freeze, senior director of strategic initiatives for sustainability at Walmart, says the company has consistently gone "above and beyond" what's legal when it comes to sustainability, a practice that gained the notice of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Environmental groups praise

“Walmart’s action to save lives by no longer selling dangerous paint strippers is a significant step forward in protecting public health," said Sujatha Bergen, Policy Specialist with NRDC. "We now live in a nation where retailers like Walmart are acting more quickly to protect public health from these toxics than the EPA."

Walmart's move also won praise from the Environmental Defense Fund, which cited the retailer for being a leader in promoting sustainability in chemical products.

"We applaud this recent step to expand that area of focus and to remove paint strippers with methylene chloride and NMP from store shelves," said Boma Brown-West, senior manager of consumer health at EDF.

Methylene chloride is clear and colorless liquid that emits highly toxic fumes of phosgene when heated to decomposition, according to the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It's assessment of the chemical is that it's a "possible mutagen and is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."

Walmart says it is phasing out paint removal products long criticized by environmentalists as being toxic to humans.Even though the Environmental Prote...
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Walmart launches revamped baby section on its website

The retailer added more than 30,000 nursery and baby-themed items to its website

Just weeks after the last Babies “R” Us store closed its doors, Walmart is ramping up its assortment of products geared towards new parents.

Last week, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer updated its website to include a larger selection of baby products.

Walmart said searches for baby and/or nursery items on its website have increased nearly 40 percent within the past year. In an effort to fill the void left by Babies “R” Us, the company has added more than 30,000 baby-themed items to its website.

With the help of a new “shop by style” tool, consumers shopping for baby gear on Walmart.com can choose from six curated baby collections: wanderlust, boho chic, mid-century modern, baby boy, baby girl, and gender-neutral nurseries Shoppers can also narrow their search to a specific area or need, such as storage, nursing, or diaper changing.

"Having to shop for the nursery as a first-time parent can be overwhelming,'' Lauren Uppington, Walmart eCommerce U.S. vice president and general manager for baby, said in a blog post. "That’s why we wanted to make it as easy as possible for new parents to shop for everything they need for their babies’ nurseries.''

Hitting the summer baby boom

Uppington said Walmart timed the introduction of these new shopping features for families for mid-summer because it has historically been “when most babies are born.”

“It also follows efforts to create a new in-store experience in the baby department in more than 2,000 stores across the country,” she said in a statement.

The retailer’s push into the baby business follows other changes to its online shopping experience. In May, Walmart added high-end items to the fashion section of its website in the hope of becoming a “fashion destination” for shoppers. The company also made changes to the home categories on its site.

Several other retailers have set out to pick up where Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us left off.

Earlier this year, Target expanded its private-label brand Cloud Island with more diaper bags and crib sheets. BuyBuy Baby offered to help consumers with Babies R Us gift registries recreate them at its stores.

Just weeks after the last Babies “R” Us store closed its doors, Walmart is ramping up its assortment of products geared towards new parents. Last week,...
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Is Walmart throwing its hat into the video streaming ring?

The big box retailer has options, but does it have enough moxie to take on Netflix and others?

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, Sony Crackle, Google Play… and now, Walmart might be jumping into the video streaming game.

As if it’s not crowded enough as it is, Walmart seems primed to try and carve out a share of the 55 percent of American households that subscribe to at least one video streaming service, spending a whopping $2.1 billion a month.

According to The Information, Walmart sees an opportunity in the sub-$8 a month market, a price point that could sap competitors’ more price-conscious subscribers. Walmart is said to be considering an ad-supported free service as well.

“Discussions are still ongoing, and the retailer may eventually decide against offering a service,” The Information reported.

“But Walmart executives believe their customers, particularly in the middle of America, would be interested in a lower-cost option than what is currently available, the person said. Netflix and Amazon are seen as more popular with people on the East and West Coasts of the U.S., one of the people said.”

Research shows that there’s probably enough room for Walmart to enter the fray if it can find and offer enough original content.

In a recent research study, financial advisory service Deloitte found consumers seek out original, high-quality content, and are less willing to pay for packages containing programming they’ll never watch. Netflix reigns supreme in the original content field and its investment is paying off handily.

Deloitte’s study also found that video consumers demand the ability to watch content wherever they are -- mobile, phone, or on their computer. Furthermore, if a streaming service can’t make the consumers’ wishes come true, it’s likely to lose their business.

How bad does Walmart want this segment?

Walmart has to decide how bad it wants the video streaming consumer and how it can create a unique enough niche to sway consumers away from competitors.

Creating original content isn’t cheap. It’s estimated that Netflix ponies up as much as $4 billion a year to produce shows like ‘The Crown’ and ‘House of Cards.’ And, if Deloitte’s research is correct, Walmart will have to step up if it wants to play with the big boys.

The retailer certainly has the cash coming in. Walmart rings up sales totaling $36 million every single minute. Lately, however, the company has been shuttering both Sam’s Club and its own underperforming stores. To stay ahead of the pack, the retailer has little choice but to maintain Sam Walton’s business model of providing low prices for its customer base while preserving narrow margins on costs.

Unbeknownst to most consumers, Walmart began wading into the video streaming pool in 2010 when it spent $100 million to acquire Vudu, a movie rental service consumers have probably seen pop up as a channel when surfing through content on their smart TVs or PlayStations.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, Sony Crackle, Google Play… and now Walmart might be jumping into the video streaming game.As if it’s not crowded enough a...
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Walmart's Jet.com to bring same-day grocery delivery to New York

The retail giant is finally making its entrance into the Big Apple

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, has long been absent from the country’s largest city -- New York. The chain has not had one retail location within the city’s five boroughs -- but that’s all about to change.

The company’s Jet.com subsidiary will be moving to the Bronx this fall in an effort to start a grocery delivery service in the Big Apple.

“We are excited to bring hundreds of jobs to the greater New York City area through the opening of the Bronx Fulfillment Center this fall,” said Simon Belsham, president of Jet.com. “This is a key building block that is part of Jet’s strategy focused on urban centers.”

With Jet.com’s headquarters across the river in Hoboken, New Jersey, this is the company’s first big push to make its way to New York City. Set to open later this year, the facility will be designed to deliver fresh grocery items, consumable goods (toothpaste and paper towels), and other merchandise to NYC addresses with either same-day or next-day delivery. The warehouse will only stock items sold on Jet.

Walmart’s quest to compete

Walmart acquired Jet.com in 2016 for $3.3 billion, as the company sought to reach a younger demographic. Since then, the retailer has expanded its digital sales, with an increase of 33 percent last quarter. Additionally, the company has been able to reach shoppers in bigger, wealthier cities -- a market base where Walmart has statistically had a limited presence.

To deliver groceries under this new service, Jet will use Parcel -- a last-mile delivery service that Walmart bought last year at an undisclosed price. Acquiring Parcel allowed Walmart to compete with the likes of Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Now -- services that offer customers same-day and next-day delivery.

According to Business Insider, the “last-mile” problem -- figuring out how to deliver packages to consumers who don’t have porches or doormen -- is a recurring problem for online retailers -- particularly in cities like New York. However, Parcel’s vans read: “No doorman? No Problem,” a sign to consumers that it’s addressing this issue.

As grocery shopping continues to evolve, consumers are flocking to services that deliver their orders straight to their doors -- and all but instantaneously. This move by Walmart signals an effort to compete in this new arena with fellow retailers like Amazon (which acquired Whole Foods and offers competitive delivery options), InstaCart, MaxDelivery, FreshDirect, and most recently, Target.

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, has long been absent from the country’s largest city -- New York. The chain has not had one retail location within...
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Walmart launches Jetblack, a new personal shopping service

Shoppers can order almost anything via text and get it delivered within a day

In another move to help it compete with Amazon, Walmart has launched Jetblack -- a new concierge-style shopping service that lets customers order items via text message with same-day or next-day delivery.

The service is currently available in parts of New York City, but only via invitation. Membership costs $50 a month. It’s being marketed as a service for “time-strapped urban parents.”

“Consumers are looking for more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families without having to compromise on product quality,” said Jenny Fleiss, co-founder and CEO of Jetblack.

“With Jetblack, we have created an entirely new concept that enables consumers to get exactly what they need through the convenience of text messaging and the freedom of a nearly unlimited product catalogue. We are confident this service will make shopping frictionless, more personalized and delightful,” Fleiss said in a statement.

Targeted at moms

The new service -- which was developed in Walmart’s in-house incubator, Store No. 8 -- touts itself as "the easiest way for busy moms to shop."

Shoppers can request “everything from birthday gifts to household essentials” from Walmart, Jet, Saks Fifth Avenue, and other New York shops. A few perks of the service include free gift wrapping, “handwritten gift cards,” and party favors. Consumers can also request product recommendations. Jetblack won’t deliver groceries, prescription medicines, or alcohol.

"All of our products are researched, curated, and tested by real NYC moms you can trust,” the company’s website says, adding that there is no minimum amount to spend.

The service has been operating in beta in Manhattan for the last eight months, but it just opened its waitlist to New York City residents. Consumers can join Jetblack's waitlist here.

The company says it plans to expand the service beyond New York City in the future, but it didn’t provide a timeline for when that might happen.

Jetblack’s launch comes less than a month after Walmart unveiled a website redesign that focused on “upscale” fashion.

In another move to help it compete with Amazon, Walmart has launched Jetblack -- a new concierge-style shopping service that lets customers order items via...
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Walmart offering employees college tuition for $1 a day

The retailer says it will subsidize tuition, books, and fees to help workers with the application and enrollment process

Walmart will start paying for its workers to pursue a college degree, the company announced Wednesday.

Through its new associate education benefit program, employees will be able to access affordable, high-quality associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in Business or Supply Chain Management. Workers will only need to contribute $1 a day, or the equivalent of about $75 per semester.

“Just a $1 a day. That’s all associates have to contribute to start earning a college degree,” said Beth Harris, internal communications manager at Walmart, in a blog post. “After that, Walmart takes care of tuition, books, and fees.”

“That also means there’s no need for a student loan — wiping out the thousands of dollars of debt associated with other degree options. What’s even better: Associates can earn college credit for paid training at Walmart Academies, saving them substantial time and money,” Harris added.

Three universities

Degrees will be offered through the University of Florida, Brandman University, and Bellevue University -- nonprofit schools selected for their high graduation rates among working adult learners, as well as their online offerings.

The program -- which will be made available to all Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club associates who have worked at the chain for at least 90 days -- will be made possible through a partnership with education benefits company Guild Education.

“Walmart has kicked off what might be the nation’s most scalable approach to creating educational opportunity for America’s workforce, now available to its U.S. associates and their families,” said Rachel Carlson, CEO and co-founder of Guild Education.

“Walmart is also leading innovation at the intersection of workforce development and higher education by helping associates earn college credit for their on-the-job training,” Carlson said.

Walmart executives estimate that as many as 68,000 employees (as much as 5 percent of the company’s 1.5 million employees) might sign up for the program in the first five years.

The retailer, which has been criticized over its treatment of staff, has made several other changes to its business in an effort to retain employees and improve engagement at work. Earlier this year, Walmart raised its starting wage rate for hourly employees to $11. It also expanded maternity and parental leave benefits.

Walmart will start paying for its workers to pursue a college degree, the company announced Wednesday.Through its new associate education benefit progr...
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Walmart adds Lord and Taylor brands to its website

The company hopes adding upscale apparel will help it become a ‘fashion destination’ for shoppers

Walmart has announced that it’s adding high-end items to the fashion section of its website as part of a site upgrade first teased back in April.

Consumers will soon see two different categories on the fashion section of Walmart’s website: Premium Brands and Walmart’s Everyday Brands.

The company’s Premium Brands section will include offerings from more than 125 Lord & Taylor brands, including Tommy Bahama, Vince Camuto, Miss Selfridge, and Lucky Brand. A separate tab will house Walmart’s Everyday Brands, which will be “part of Walmart.com’s broader fashion destination.”

The assortment of Lord & Taylor products available at Walmart.com will include men's, women's, and kids' clothing, as well as shoes, accessories, and jewelry. The range of offerings will be updated “regularly,” the company said.

“We want each category to feel like you are shopping a specialty store,” said Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart's U.S. e-commerce business, adding that similar partnerships with other apparel brands are planned for later this year.

Competing with Amazon

Walmart and Lord & Taylor first announced their partnership last November. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said at the time that it wanted to turn its website into a “premium fashion destination.”

"We see customers on our site searching for higher-end items, and we are expanding our business online to focus on adding specialized and premium shopping experiences, starting with fashion," said Denise Incandela, the head of fashion for Walmart US e-commerce.

Walmart says the new shopping experience will be rolled out “in the coming weeks.”

"The new experience is aligned with how customers shop the category, with editorial elements that inspire customers to browse and buy, and has already generated positive customer response,” Incandela said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The next step is the launch of the Lord & Taylor flagship store, which introduces exciting new premium brands to our customers,” she added.

Adding new retail brands and products to its website will help Walmart compete with Amazon, which is poised to surpass Walmart to become the number one apparel retailer in the country later this year.

Walmart has announced that it’s adding high-end items to the fashion section of its website as part of a site upgrade first teased back in April. Consu...
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Walmart agrees to buy 77 percent of Flipkart

​Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son let the news slip in an earnings presentation

Walmart has reached a deal to buy Flipkart, the largest e-commerce retailer in India, for $16 billion dollars. The partnership will give Walmart a 77 percent stake in a rapidly growing market which is currently comprised of 1.3 billion people.

Softbank, one of Flipkart’s biggest investors, held an earnings presentation on Tuesday and let news of the deal slip slightly early.

“Walmart is purchasing Flipkart,” Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said during the presentation (speaking in Japanese with translation provided by a SoftBank representative). “Last night there was the official announcement.”

After being handed a note that said the announcement had not yet been confirmed, the CEO backpedaled a little. “With regards to Flipkart, it’s not officially announced yet. Maybe I should not have mentioned that … Well, I can’t take it out!” he said.

Announcement confirmed

Earlier today, Walmart made the official announcement. In a statement, the Arkansas-based company said the partnership represents a “significant opportunity to partner with local leader” in a key growth market.

The partnership will be supported by Walmart, Tencent, Tiger Global, and Microsoft.

“India is one of the most attractive retail markets in the world, given its size and growth rate, and our investment is an opportunity to partner with the company that is leading transformation of eCommerce in the market,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart’s president and CEO.

“As a company, we are transforming globally to meet and exceed the needs of customers and we look forward to working with Flipkart to grow in this critical market. We are also excited to be doing this with Tencent, Tiger Global and Microsoft, which will be key strategic and technology partners.”

The deal gives Walmart more power over Amazon in its ongoing battle for e-commerce supremacy. As we previously reported, Amazon put in a competing offer to buy Flipkart earlier this month.  

However, Flipkart’s board reportedly believed regulatory hurdles could ensue in an Amazon-Flipkart deal since Amazon is India’s No. 2 online retailer and Flipkart’s primary competitor.

The Flipkart-Walmart deal is the largest-ever in e-commerce, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Walmart has reached a deal to buy Flipkart, the largest e-commerce retailer in India, for $16 billion dollars. The partnership will give Walmart a 77 perce...
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Walmart triumphs over Amazon in battle to acquire Flipkart

The deal would put Walmart in a leading position in India

India’s largest e-commerce platform Flipkart has approved an agreement to sell roughly 75 percent of its stake in the Walmart group, which also includes Google parent Alphabet, Bloomberg reported Friday.

The report states that Japan’s SoftBank will also sell its stake in Flipkart, which is 20-plus percent. The agreement would give Flipkart, a company founded by former Amazon employees, a value of around $20 billion.

Experts predict that details of the deal will be ironed out in the coming days and the two sides could come to a final agreement within the next two weeks.

Blow to Amazon

If finalized, the deal would be a big win for Walmart in its ongoing retail war with Amazon.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been trying to take control of Flipkart with a competing offer, but Flipkart’s board reportedly believes a deal with Walmart is more likely to go through. Regulatory hurdles could ensue in an Amazon-Flipkart deal since Amazon is India’s No. 2 online retailer and Flipkart’s primary competitor.

Flipkart and its fashion units Myntra and Jabong control almost 40 percent of India’s online retail market. Amazon follows closely behind with a 31 percent share, according to data from research firm Forrester.

A majority stake in Flipkart would put Walmart in a leading position in India -- a rapidly growing market which is currently viewed as “the next big potential prize after the U.S. and China, where foreign retailers have made little progress against Alibaba Group Holding Ltd,” the report noted.

The market of 1.3 billion people is expected to be worth $200 billion within a decade.

“Flipkart is key to a global e-commerce strategy,” Arvind Singhal, chairman of the New Delhi-based retail consultancy Technopak Advisors told Bloomberg. “Walmart clearly doesn’t want to be left behind in the race as India is a critical piece.”

India’s largest e-commerce platform Flipkart has approved an agreement to sell roughly 75 percent of its stake in the Walmart group, which also includes Go...
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Walmart teams up with Postmates to grow its home grocery delivery service

The company plans to expand its Walmart Online Grocery Delivery to more markets this year

Walmart is partnering with delivery service Postmates to expand its grocery delivery program, the companies announced today.

Walmart Online Grocery Delivery will start in Charlotte, North Carolina and will expand to other markets “soon.” The retailer says its goal is to reach more than 40 percent of U.S. households in the coming months.

In March, Walmart announced it would be expanding home delivery to an additional 800 stores by the end of this year, with grocery transportation provided by companies including Uber and Deliv.

"We will ... reach as many households as we can," said Tom Ward, the vice president of Walmart's digital operations in the U.S. "We will leverage our footprint where it makes the most sense."

Reaching more customers

A recent study conducted by the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen found that 70 percent of consumers will be grocery shopping online in as few as five to seven years.

Partnering with Postmates to expand its grocery delivery service may help Walmart compete with the likes of Amazon, Target, and other retailers who have started delivering groceries to consumers’ homes.  

“Both Walmart and Postmates strive to make the lives of our customers easier,” said Dan Mosher, senior vice president, merchant lead, Postmates. “With our growing fleet of 160,000 couriers, we are confident that we’ll be providing Walmart customers with the ultimate convenience.”

Competing with Amazon

The push to make same-day grocery delivery available to more Walmart shoppers comes as Amazon is ramping up its own grocery delivery service. Earlier this year, Amazon started delivering groceries from Whole Foods through its two-hour Prime Now platform.

Meanwhile, other big grocers -- including Kroger, HEB, Albertsons, and Publix -- have teamed up with Instacart to expand their own same-day delivery services.

Walmart’s Online Grocery Delivery service gives customers the ability to get groceries from the retailer delivered to their home within the same day as an order being placed. The minimum purchase amount is $30, and there's a fee of $9.95 for delivery.

Walmart also announced earlier this year that it would begin selling its own line of meal kits in stores to make meal preparation easier and more convenient for consumers.

Walmart is partnering with delivery service Postmates to expand its grocery delivery program, the companies announced today.Walmart Online Grocery Deli...
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Walmart expands home delivery to 800 stores

The retailer is upping the ante in its race with Amazon and Target

The grocery delivery wars are heating up.

Walmart has fired the latest shot, announcing that it will expand its fledgling grocery delivery service from its current six markets to more than 100 metro areas -- covering 800 stores -- by the end of this year.

The retailer estimates that will make 40 percent of U.S. households eligible for its grocery delivery service.

Size matters

Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., says the company is making the leap with the aid of new technology. He says when it comes to ramping up home delivery service, size matters.

“We’re serving our customers in ways that no one else can," Foran said. "Using our size and scale, we’re bringing the best of Walmart to customers across the country.”

Home delivery has emerged as a key marker in grocery competition. When Amazon purchased Whole Foods last year, it announced plans to deliver food items to its Prime members. It has rolled out in four markets -- Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach -- with plans to expand throughout 2018.

Target recently purchased Shipt, a grocery delivery service, and in February it launched same-day deliveries in key markets in Florida. Target plans to add more markets during the spring.

Extra costs

Home delivery for both Amazon and Target require a membership fee. Walmart says its home delivery service will require a $9.95 fee and a $30 minimum order.

To get home delivery, consumers will place orders online at Walmart.com/grocery or use the Walmart Grocery App. Prices, the company says, will be the same as for items found in Walmart stores.

When an order comes in, a personal shopper will take the list and fill a shopping cart with the requested food items, which are then delivered to the customer's door. Walmart says the new delivery service is separate from its current Online Grocery Pickup service, which is now available at 1,200 stores.

Tom Ward, Walmart's vice president for digital operations, notes that 90 percent of consumers live within 10 miles of a Walmart store. As the home delivery service expands, he says more people will be able to save both time and money without leaving home.

The grocery delivery wars are heating up.Walmart has fired the latest shot, announcing that it will expand its fledgling grocery delivery service from...
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Walmart is launching its own line of meal kits

​The company is hoping to compete with Amazon and meal kit providers for shoppers’ dollars

Walmart announced Monday that it will roll out its meal kit service to as many as 2,000 stores nationwide this year, following an initial test in some of its stores.

The meal kits feed two people and range in price from $8 to $15. Consumers can either buy kits in store or order them online and pick them up later that day. Three different kinds of kits are available to choose from, depending on how much cooking shoppers want to do.

“On shelves in the deli, options include pre-portioned cooking kits, kits to accompany the grocers’ best-selling rotisserie chicken, along with options that can be heated up and on the table in less than 15 minutes,” Walmart said in a statement.

Competing with meal kit providers

The push to add its own line of meal kits will help the retail giant compete with Amazon, which started selling ready-to-cook meals last summer and began delivering groceries from Whole Foods through its two-hour Prime Now delivery service last month.

Walmart also hopes to compete with subscription-based meal kit programs like Blue Apron and Hellofresh. However, its meal kits won’t require a subscription or involve a complex delivery process, which may help it appeal to a wider range of consumers.

“Customers are busier than ever and we know getting a delicious dinner on the table can be a chore. We’re here to help,” said Tyler Lehr, senior vice president and general merchandise manager, Deli Services, Walmart US.

“These delicious meals give the best or worst of cooks a fresh, easy option for dinner tonight, or later this week.”

Walmart announced Monday that it will roll out its meal kit service to as many as 2,000 stores nationwide this year, following an initial test in some of i...
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Walmart shoppers can soon order on Google Assistant

Retailer seeks to counter Amazon voice ordering through Alexa

In the world of retail, Walmart is viewed as the most formidable challenger to Amazon, and that company has just made another move on the retail chess board.

In an obvious answer to Amazon's voice ordering capability through the Echo device, Walmart has signed a deal for voice ordering through the Google Assistant.

What makes this deal unique -- other retailers have the ability to take voice orders through Google -- for the first time Google will sync up with Walmart accounts. This could make reordering much easier, since Google Assistant will know what products consumers purchased in the past.

Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, says the partnership integrates Walmart's Easy Reorder feature into Google Express. With it, he says consumers can build a basket of previously ordered items. Because of Google's technology, Lore said it just made sense to team up with the tech giant.

'Transparent shopping universe'

"They’ve made significant investments in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver a powerful voice shopping experience," Lore wrote in the company blog. "We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that’s the way it should be. An open and transparent shopping universe is good for customers."

He also hinted that Walmart plans additional features and services related to voice shopping -- plans that leverage Walmart's brick and mortar stores and fulfillment network.

Consumers currently can use Google Assistant to order from Costco and Target, but Walmart says it is the first to make account histories accessible.

"If you’re an existing Walmart customer, you can choose to link your Walmart account to Google and receive personalized shopping results based on your online and in-store Walmart purchases," said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's senior vice president for ads & commerce. "For example, if you order Tide PODS or Gatorade, your Google Assistant will let you know which size and type you previously ordered from Walmart, making it easy for you to buy the right product again."

The Walmart-Google connection will start in late September.

In the world of retail, Walmart is viewed as the most formidable challenger to Amazon, and that company has just made another move on the retail chess boar...
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Walmart offering incentives to order online

Select items will have a discount if you order online and pick it up at a store

Walmart is wading deeper into online competition with Amazon by offering discounts on more than ten thousand items if consumers order them online and pick them up at a Walmart store.

The number of items will expand to one million by the end of June, the retailer said.

Surveys have suggested that consumers like the convenience of ordering something online, then driving to a nearby store to find it waiting for them. It works especially well for big box retailers, saving consumers the hassle of wandering the aisles to find the item, or asking a store associate to help them find it, then waiting in a checkout line.

Walmart CEO Marc Lore says the new system will take advantage of supply chain efficiencies, and the company will pass some of the savings on to consumers. The discounts will start April 19.

More options

"We’re creating price transparency to empower customers to shop smarter and choose what’s best for them," Lore said in a statement. "Now, they can either pick up and save even more money, or ship two-day for free to home, without paying for a membership."

Lore said the discounts are possible because the system will remove the "last mile" delivery costs. In addition, Lore says Walmart cuts costs when it delivers goods from its fulfillment centers directly to stores.

Items eligible for the discount will be flagged that way on the store's website. Walmart lists these examples as typical discounts:

  • Britax B-SAFE 35 Infant Car Seat, Slate Strie – $140.65 after a $7.40 discount.

  • LEGO City Great Vehicles Ferry, 60119 – $21.44 after a $2.55 discount.

  • Coleman 150 qt Heritage XP Marine Cooler – $107.03 after a $4.46 discount.

  • VIZIO SmartCast M-Series 70" Class 4K Ultra HDTV (M70-D3) – $1,648 after a $50 discount.

Free two-day delivery

The pickup discounts follow Walmart's move in January to offer free two-day shipping on more than two million items without requiring customers to sign-up for a membership, a shot at Amazon's Prime membership program.

If the item you purchase is not among the two million covered by the new program, Walmart says it will provide free shipping if the order totals $35, down from $50. Items shipped for pick-up at stores have no price threshold.

Walmart is wading deeper into online competition with Amazon by offering discounts on more than ten thousand items if consumers order them online and pick...
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Walmart rolls out free two-day shipping with no membership

The days of paying for shipping may be quickly passing

Before long, paying for shipping when you order something online will be unthinkable.

During the holiday shopping season, nearly all retailers waive shipping charges for purchases over a certain amount. Amazon.com's Prime account, which costs $99 per year, provides free two-day shipping all year round.

Walmart, which countered Prime with its own two-day shipping program for half the cost, has now upped the ante, saying it will provide free two-day shipping on more than two million items with no membership fee.

If the item you purchase is not among the two million covered by the new program, Walmart says it will provide free shipping if the order totals $35, down from $50. Items shipped for pick-up at stores have no price threshold.

Fighting back against Amazon

As Amazon has continued to dominate the online retail space, Walmart has fought hard to maintain its position as the nation's largest retailer. In August it acquired Jet.com, another online retailer, to shore up it's ecommerce offerings.

Jet.com was co-founded by Marc Lore, who sold his previous company – Diapers.com – to Amazon in 2010. Jet.com officially launched in 2015, promising consumers lower prices in exchange for longer delivery times.

Lore is now president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, and he says the new free two-day shipping program gives Walmart a powerful weapon.

“Two-day free shipping is the first of many moves we will be making to enhance the customer experience and accelerate growth,” he said.

What's covered

The free two-day shipping will cover items like household products, including diapers, pet products, and food. It will also cover cleaning supplies, grooming products, and top-selling toys and electronics.

Walmart said some consumers who had signed up and paid the $49 for the Shipping Pass service would get refunds.

For consumers, it may be the clearest signal yet that the day is fast approaching when they will never be asked to pay for shipping. At least, that's where Lore thinks things are going.

“In today's world of e-commerce, two-day free shipping is table stakes," he said on a conference call with analysts and reporters. "It no longer makes sense to charge for it.”

Before long, paying for shipping when you order something online will be unthinkable.During the holiday shopping season, nearly all retailers waive shi...
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Walmart takes aim at Amazon, acquiring Jet.com

Retailer believes the move will bolster its ecommerce position

Walmart has announced it is acquiring online retailer Jet.com for $3.3 billion in cash and stock. The company says the acquisition will build on its ecommerce presence and add new capabilities.

Walmart is the nation's largest retailer, but increasingly that title has appeared threatened by Amazon.com, which has made huge inroads in the last five years. When Amazon had its second annual Prime Day sale last month, Walmart ramped up its promotional efforts to counter it.

Doug McMillon, Walmart's president and CEO, says the deal will improve his company's competitive position.

“We believe the acquisition of Jet accelerates our progress across these priorities,” he said. “Walmart.com will grow faster, the seamless shopping experience we’re pursuing will happen quicker, and we’ll enable the Jet brand to be even more successful in a shorter period of time.”

Weapon against Amazon

The acquisition of Jet not only removes an ecommerce competitor from the marketplace; Walmart will likely use it to bolster its defenses against the Amazon onslaught.

Jet.com was co-founded by Marc Lore, who sold his previous company – Diapers.com – to Amazon in 2010. Jet.com officially launched last year, promising consumers lower prices in exchange for longer delivery times. In short, Jet.com was aimed at Walmart.com as much as it was at Amazon.

“We started Jet with the vision of creating a new shopping experience,” Lore said. “Today, I couldn’t be more excited that we will be joining with Walmart to help fuel the realization of that vision.”

New ideas and expertise

For its part, Walmart said it is counting on the acquisition to bring new ideas and expertise to the nation's largest retailer. It says it has been impressed with Jet.com's ability to quickly scale up, reaching $1 billion in run-rate Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) and offering 12 million items in its first year.

Although it is being acquired, Jet.com will maintain its own brand. The company says it expects Jet.com will create new synergy in the ecommerce space, allowing Walmart to leverage new technology solutions to develop new product offerings to save both time and money.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval, but Walmart did not offer guidance as to when that might occur.

Walmart has announced it is acquiring online retailer Jet.com for $3.3 billion in cash and stock. The company says the acquisition will build on its ecomme...
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Walmart offers free shipping for five days

Retailer tries to one-up Amazon's Prime Day

As Amazon.com ramps up for Tuesday's second annual Prime Day – a sort of Black Friday in July – Walmart has served notice it is joining the fight for the consumer's dollar.

The nation's largest retailer has announced it will provide free shipping over the next five days, along with discounts on a wide range of merchandise, in a bid to match Amazon's promotion for Prime members. It is also dropping its normal $50 minimum purchase to receive free shipping.

Prime members, in exchange for their annual membership fee, receive free two-day shipping on all Amazon purchases.

In announcing its free shipping promotion, Walmart also announced discounts on merchandise, including a 55-inch Samsung TV for $299.99, marked down from $369.99. It's selling an iPhone 5S for $149, marked down from $450, and an Acer laptop, regularly $399, is on sale for $299.

The company says these deals will last more than one day but did not say when the sale would end.

Prime Day ready to launch

Amazon, meanwhile, launches its Prime Day promotion Tuesday, featuring deals across nearly all departments and categories. The deals become available at midnight PT.

But to take advantage of the deals, consumers must be members of Amazon Prime, which carries a fee of $99 a year. However, it has been pointed out that Amazon offers a 30-day free trial of Prime, so just about anyone can take part. For its part, Amazon is counting on a large number of people trying Prime to stay with it once the trial period ends.

The holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday.com says some of Amazon's Prime Day deals last July turned out to be better than those offered on Black Friday. But the site's editor, Phil Dengler, says the best deals will probably not be offered throughout the entire day, so consumers will need to check Amazon's site periodically.

As Amazon.com ramps up for Tuesday's second annual Prime Day – a sort of Black Friday in July – Walmart has served notice it is joining the fight for the c...
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Walmart expands curbside grocery pickup

Service now available in 30 U.S. markets

Consumers seem to want to spend less time in the supermarket and any number of companies are harnessing technology to make that chore easier.

Walmart has taken a slightly different approach than Amazon and other specialized delivery services. It allows customers in certain markets to send in their grocery orders and then pull up to a nearby Walmart store, where their purchases are waiting at the curb.

The company says the curbside service has been successful enough that it is being expanded. It is now available in a total of 30 U.S. markets.

The latest additions are Kansas City, Mo.; Boise, Idaho; Richmond, Va.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Austin, Tex.; Charleston, S.C.; Provo, Utah; and Daphne, Ala.

Positive feedback

“Customers tell us they’re excited about online grocery because they’re putting the time they’re saving back into meaningful parts of their lives (like spending time helping their kids with homework or having a date-night with their spouse),” Walmart vice-president Michael Bender writes on the company blog.

“They have the option of shopping whenever and wherever they want – adding to ongoing lists all week, or placing a quick order through our mobile app – putting them in control of the entire process, all the way down to when they pick up. Even better is that our grocery pickup service is 100% free to use.”

According to Walmart, 90% of curbside delivery users have used the service in the past, suggesting they find it useful. The orders are filled by store personnel specifically assigned to the task.

To use the service, consumers fill their basket online, using their computer or mobile app. Orders placed by 10 a.m. are available for pickup the same day.

Walmart rolled out the curbside pickup service last September.

Consumers seem to want to spend less time in the supermarket and any number of companies are harnessing technology to make that chore easier.Walmart ha...
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Walmart builds holiday promotions around Star Wars

Retailer also getting an early start on its layaway program

After Amazon.com rang the pre-holiday cash register in a big way with his July 15 Prime Day sales promotion, it isn't surprising competitors are coming up with summer holiday promotions of their own.

Walmart has announced Toy Week, which begins Friday, and has started its holiday layaway program two weeks earlier than in the past.

The retailer says Toy Week will reveal “some of the biggest holiday trends” and leads into its Force Friday events on Sept. 4, when it says the wraps come off new and exclusive Star Wars merchandise. The cult movie merchandise isn't limited to toys but includes grocery, apparel, and even healthcare products.

Layaway program changes

Friday also marks the start of Walmart's holiday layaway program, a full two weeks earlier than last year. In addition to the earlier start, the company has lowered the price for eligible items to $10 with a $50 minimum basket.

Customers aren't required to pay a fee to open an account, just pay 10% of the purchase. Customers have until Dec. 14 to pick up their merchandise and make their final payment.

“Outside of the holiday season, we could be looking at the biggest week of 2015 for toys and we’re giving customers every reason to choose Walmart,” said Anne Marie Kehoe, vice president of toys at Walmart. “We’ve made a tradition out of letting kids tell us which toys will be most popular during the holidays. Between their selections this year and the excitement around Star Wars, parents know exactly what will top kids’ wish lists, and they can count on us for great prices.”

The Force Awakens

It's no surprise that Walmart is pushing its inventory of Star Wars: The Force Awakens products, including some that the retailer says it will have exclusively. The company says consumers can preorder the Legendary Yoda toy now at Walmart.com.

Then at midnight Friday, Sept. 4, 2,900 Walmart stores will open their doors to kick-off a Star Wars- related sales event. Walmart has posted a prevview of some of its Star Wars products here.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, customers could only shop in stores,” Kehoe said. “Today, we make it easy and convenient to find new Star Wars merchandise in our stores, on a mobile device or on Walmart.com with light speed shipping options.”

Meanwhile, the retailer says Toy Week will spotlight the toys it believes will be the hot commodities of the season, based on feedback it got from children enlisted to play with the items. Near the top of the list are:

  • Wicked Cool Girl Scout Cookie Oven
  • Mattel Hot Wheels Terrain Twister
  • Mattel Frozen Ice Castle
  • Spin Master Paw Patrol Mission Chase
  • Fisher Price Little People Zoo
After Amazon.com rang the pre-holiday cash register in a big way with his July 15 Prime Day sales promotion, it isn't surprising competitors are coming up ...
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Walmart is improving the lives of animals

The nation's biggest grocer is a leader in humane treatment of animals

Walmart is helping change the way food animals are trated across the retail industry. 

Walmart is asking meat producers, egg suppliers and others to use antibiotics only when needed for disease prevention or treatment, not to fatten their animals, a common industry practice.

It is also trying to halt pig gestation crates and any other type of housing that doesn’t give an animal enough room to move. Walmart is also requesting that dehorning and castration be done with painkillers.

Activists are applauding Walmart touting its guidelines and saying it could become the blueprint of the food industry. McDonald’s Corp., Nestlé and Starbucks Corp., have already pledged to reduce or eliminate the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows and otherwise improve animal treatment.

Consumer demand

Much of the Walmart's motivation is no doubt simple market economics. Shoppers are more aware of their health than ever before and it’s no longer just the food pyramid. People want to know where their food comes from, what the animals are fed and how they are treated. Consumers are pushing for more transparency when it comes to how things are grown.

Walmart said its own research showed 77 percent of its shoppers said they will increase their trust and 66 percent will increase their likelihood to shop at a retailer that improves the treatment of livestock.

Activists have been loud and clear about abuses that have gone on in the farms that supply food to Walmart and other large companies.

According to Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president of Walmart’s sustainability division, Walmart is now asking for suppliers to give them annual reports on antibiotic use and animal welfare and post them on their own websites.

The World Organization for Animal Health outlined Five Freedoms that it wanted to see for animal health. Walmart has adopted those and they include freedom from pain and injury, and freedom to express normal behavior.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, says he is thrilled that Walmart has taken a stand and said he feels that the impact is a “game-changing progress and signals to agribusiness that the era of confining farm animals is ending.”

Walmart's guidelines also to their sister company, Sam’s Club.

Walmart is helping change the way food animals are trated across the retail industry.  Walmart is asking meat producers, egg suppliers and others to use...
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Walmart launching a free-shipping program for online sales

Walmart joins Jet.com is targeting price-conscious shoppers

Big box stores are fine but Walmart would like to have a bigger piece of the online space as well, so the giant retailer is launching a $50-per-year program that will compete with Amazon Prime.

Consumers rate Wal-Mart

Walmart says deliveries will be made within three days. Prime, priced at $99 per year, promises two-day delivery on most purchases and throws in a lot of extras like free video and music streaming.

Walmart isn't saying much about the program yet -- said to be code-named Tahoe -- and hasn't yet seen fit to post anything about it in its newsroom, which is generally pretty devoid of anything timely, something the big retailer might want to fix if it really wants to become an online player. Getting stuff into the weekly paper won't quite cut it.

Walmart currently offers free shipping on purchases above $50 so its cost-conscious customers may not be too eager to shell out an extra $50 a year when they could just be sure to order $50 worth of goods each time they buy from Walmart.com.

Perhaps taking a page from Google, or maybe just because it doesn't have a clue how to sell it, the new program will initially be offered by invitiation only, according to press reports.

Not too exciting

So far, no one seems too excited about Walmart's prospects.

“Amazon’s Prime program offers a lot of comprehensive benefits that Walmart will not be able to offer anytime soon,” said David Biernbaum, senior marketing and business development consultant at David Biernbaum Associates, in a Forbes report. “[Tahoe] will carry only what Walmart carries, and believe it or not, that selection is fairly limited to mostly commodities, basics and every day pantry items.”

As Biernbaum notes, one of Prime's major strengths is that it includes just about anything. You can find a saxophone reed, ketchup, an obscure auto part or a lawn tractor on Prime, order it with a single click and, in most cases, find it on your doorstep two days later.

Although Amazon doesn't release sales information for Prime, anecdotal evidence indicates that many consumers habitually go first to Prime when they need something and only in rare circumstances go elsewhere to complete the purchase. That's a habit that's going to be hard to break.

Jet.com's dreams

Fledgling online retailer Jet.com is also in the pre-launch phase of its Prime-like shopping service but denies that it has Prime in its sights.

"While a lot of outlets have been quick to make the Amazon connection because it makes for a good headline, Jet isn’t actually trying to directly compete with Amazon or get existing Amazon Prime customers," said Jet publicist John Harrington, who besides his other talents is apparently able to discern the motivations of reporters and editors.

According to the Commerce Department, currently only 8% of retail sales happen online, which leaves a lot of space for Amazon and Jet to co-exist, Harrington said in an email to ConsumerAffairs a few days ago, after we reported on Jet's plans.

Consumers rate Amazon.com

"The e-commerce space is going to be growing rapidly over the coming years and Jet’s aim is not about competing with Amazon, but rather about offering current or future shoppers an option that’s focused on getting them the lowest possible price," he said.

"Feel free to reach out if you’re in need of anything for a future story!" Harrington exclaimed. We took him up on that and asked if we could get an inside look at Jet.com's beta site so we could report on it more fully.

That wasn't in the cards, though. Saying the site was still in "a pretty early beta," Harrington declined, although Re/code and other tech-focused publications have been allowed inside, perhaps reflecting Jet's faith that the key to successful retailing is technology, rather than those pesky consumers. 

Walmart.com Big box stores are fine but Walmart would like to have a bigger piece of the online space as well, so the giant retailer is launching a $5...
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The Walmart MoneyCard hacker strikes again

Cardholders from across the U.S. see their hacked cards drained at NYC Target stores

Something criminally strange seems to be going on with Walmart MoneyCards, especially in New York City and its immediate suburbs, though any MoneyCard hold...

Walmart overcharged New York customers for Coca-Cola products

The giant retailer has agreed to settle false advertising claims and clean up its act

Saying one thing and doing another may be common but it's illegal when it involves advertising, as Walmart stores in New York State have learned. 

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that Walmart has agreed to settle charges that it advertised a nationwide sale of Coca-Cola soft drinks but charged customers in 117 stores across New York State more than the advertised sale price.

In a statement, Walmart apologized and said it was working to prevent similar incidents in the future. 

"We strive for accuracy, and we are further enhancing our procedures to help ensure proper promotional pricing. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers. They can rest assured that Walmart is committed to delivering the products they need at everyday low prices," Walmart said.   

In June 2014, Walmart launched a Father’s Day sale, including advertising 12-packs of Coca-Cola products for $3.00. However, when consumers in New York State attempted to purchase the sale items, customers were routinely charged $3.50.

According to Schneiderman, in one Buffalo-area Walmart store a consumer brought the error to the attention of staff and was told that the newspaper circular was a national ad and that it did not apply in New York.

When consumers complained about being charged more than the advertised price, Walmart staff falsely told them that New York has a "Sugar Tax."

One set of rules

“There has to be one set of rules for everyone, no matter how rich or how powerful, and that is why our office must ensure that even the largest corporations cannot advertise one price and then charge a higher one to New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. 

Schneiderman said consumers were routinely overcharged in stores across the state. It was determined that cash registers were programmed to not recognize the advertised sale price. On June 12, 2014, the Attorney General’s Office requested that Walmart immediately adjust prices to the amount advertised and the chain complied.

Saying one thing and doing another may be common but it's illegal when it involves advertising, as Walmart stores in New York State have learned. ...
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Walmart workers stage walk-outs, protests

Week of protests to culminate at June 6 Walmart stockholder meeting

In preparation for Walmart's annual stockholder meeting, which is to be held June 6, a group of Walmart employees went on strikelast Friday, demanding better pay and working conditions.

The overall story “Walmart employees allege various forms of mistreatment” has been ongoing for years. As early as 2004, for example, the New York Times reported that night-shift employees were locked in the store overnight and forbidden to leave on pain of firing, even in case of medical emergencies.

The latest chapter in the story unfolded when the sporadic walk-outs started last week. The workers' group Organization United for Respect at Walmart, also known as “OUR Walmart,” is behind the strike.

OUR Walmart's complaints can be broken down into three basic categories: workers' pay is inherently too low; working conditions are often poor; and employee scheduling tends to be erratic and last-minute, making it impossible to try holding a second job or any other activities, since you never know in advance when or if Walmart expects you at work.

Sales slipping, profits off

Walmart for its part takes the position that it cannot afford to offer pay as high as OUR Walmart wants, and that its various workplace conditions — such as its pregnancy policies — meet or exceed legal requirements.

When Masslive.com reported the May 30 protest at a Walmart in Chicopee, Massachusetts, it said: “The company has denied that workers are underpaid or mistreated, and blamed much of the furor on the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which has tried to unionize the company’s workers.”

It's not only Walmart that says times are tough. Investors are complaining too.

Last month, John Schwinghamer, a Montreal portfolio manager, said he sold all of his shares of Wal-Mart after a key measure of the company’s profitability fell in consecutive quarters for the first time in at least 20 years. 

“This is a game changer and a warning sign to investors that Wal-Mart is facing challenges in the competitive environment that they may not easily overcome this time,” said Schwinghamer, according to the Wall Street Journal's Moneybeat blog.

Wal-Mart’s earnings per share dropped by 3.5% in the quarter ended April 30, following a 20% drop in the previous quarter, according to S&P Capital IQ. 

Taxpayers' burden

On June 2, the Christian Science Monitor ran a guest column by Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, discussing the issue. Reich, who compared the Walmart strikers with civil rights protestors from 50 years ago, summarized the issue as follows:

Although Walmart is no Bull Connor, it’s the poster child for keeping low-wage workers down. America’s largest employer, with 1.4 million workers, refuses to provide most of them with an income they can live on. The vast majority earns under $25,000 a year, with an average hourly wage of about $8.80.

You and I and other taxpayers shell out for these workers’ Medicaid and food stamps because they and their families can’t stay afloat on what Walmart pays. (I’ve often thought Walmart and other big employers should have to pay a tax equal to the public assistance their workers receive because the companies don’t pay them enough to stay out of poverty.)

Reich went on to discuss various lawsuits against the company. Last January, the National Labor Relations Board filed a consolidated complaint against Walmart, citing allegations that in at least 13 states, the company violated the rights of its employes who were engaged in legal acts of employee protest.

An NLRB press release dated January 15 listed the following violations allegedly committed by Walmart:

During two national television news broadcasts and in statements to employees at Walmart stores in California and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened employees with reprisal if they engaged in strikes and protests.

At stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington, Walmart unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.

At stores in California, Florida, and Texas, Walmart unlawfully threatened, surveilled, disciplined, and/or terminated employees in anticipation of or in response to employees’ other protected concerted activities.

Not all the protests are taking place at Walmart stores. On June 2, OUR Walmart held another protest and posted photos on its Facebook page under the caption “#Walmartstrikers & #Walmartmoms from around the country march to Walmart Chairman Rob Walton's house in Phoenix, calling for an end to retaliation & bullying.”

In preparation for Walmart's annual stockholder meeting, which is to be held June 6, a group of Walmart employees went on strike last Friday, demanding bet...
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Walmart launching new money transfer service, to compete with Western Union

Walmart-2-Walmart will let customers transfer money to and from 4,000 U.S. stores

One in four U.S. families are now "unbanked," meaning they don't have a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union. Most are low-income and live in neighborhoods with high poverty rates. They handle their finances by using expensive money transfer services and payday loans.

Did we mention they're likely to be WalMart shoppers? 

Walmart has been targeting this group for some time, with its Walmart Money Card, MoneyCenter and other products. Now it's adding something called  "Walmart-2-Walmart," a domestic money transfer service that will let consumers send money from one Walmart store to another, starting April 24.

Walmart says prices for the new service will be up to 50% less than that charged by competitors.

Clear fees

“Walmart-2-Walmart offers a clear fee structure with just two pricing tiers: customers can transfer up to $50 for $4.50 and up to $900 for $9.50,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services for Walmart, on a call to investors, analysts and press, Forbes.com reported

Besides its other services for unbanked customers, Walmart and American Express operate Bluebird, an alternative to traditional debit and checking accounts. There are no minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees, although there is a $2 fee for those not enrolled in direct deposit.

One in four U.S. families are now "unbanked," meaning they don't have a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union. Most are low-income and live...
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MasterCard logo coming to Walmart credit cards

Important news for investors; consumer outlook uncertain

If you have a Sam's Club or Walmart credit card (as opposed to pre-paid money card), you'll see a different logo next time you're issued a new plastic rectangle — though whether you'll see changes in your account's financial specifics remains to be seen.

However, stockholders in Walmart or various financial companies have good reason to take interest in the news that, starting this summer, Walmart credit cards will be branded with the MasterCard logo, rather than Discover.

The Wall Street Journal (followed by other business-news sites) announced the changes Friday morning:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. co-branded credit cards will soon carry MasterCard Inc.'s logo under a deal the retailer struck with General Electric Co.'s banking arm to switch from Discover Financial Services.

As of early Friday afternoon, Walmart stock rose slightly in value, whereas the stock price of every other company involved in the deal actually dropped, which might be bad news for investors.

But what about consumers — if you have a Walmart or Sam's Club card, what if any changes will you see after switching to MasterCard?

That remains uncertain, although it is theoretically possible you'll see a slight improvement (drop) in store prices due to another recent news story involving Walmart and credit cards: at the end of March, Walmart filed a lawsuit in Arkansas (where the company is headquartered) against the VISA company, claiming that the “swipe fees” it charges merchants are too high.

In court documents, Walmart argued that “The anticompetitive conduct of Visa and the banks forced Wal-Mart to raise retail prices paid by its customers and/or reduce retail services provided to its customers as a means of offsetting some of the artificially inflated interchange fees.”

Pay it off

Regardless of what company logo is on your credit card or what stores you patronize as a shopper, it's important to pay off your credit card bill in full every month, lest you pay interest rates high enough to wipe out any presumptive savings from shopping at a cheaper store.

If you can't afford to do this, and have no choice but to carry a balance on the card from month to month, then at least avoid putting further charges on the card until you get it paid off, because you will be charged high interest on every additional purchase you make.

Despite those swipe fees Walmart complained about in court, the fees credit card companies collect from merchants whenever customers use their cards, the bulk of credit card company profits come from interest payments. Don't let their extra profits empty your pocket.

If you're a Sam's Club or Walmart credit card (as opposed to pre-paid money card) holder, you'll see a different logo next time you're issued a new plastic...
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Falling prices, rising crime?

The crime rate fell in the 1990s -- but not so much in counties with a Walmart, study finds

Crime rates fell across the United States in the 1990s. But in counties where Wal-Mart built stores, the decline was slower, a new study finds. 

"The crime decline was stunted in counties where Wal-Mart expanded in the 1990s," says Scott Wolfe, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of South Carolina and lead author of a new study. "If the corporation built a new store, there were 17 additional property crimes and 2 additional violent crimes for every 10,000 persons in a county."

The study, released last month in the British Journal of Criminology, was co-authored with David Pyrooz, assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University.

The study was not intended to criticize Wal-Mart, he says. Instead, it attempted to answer the unexplored question of whether Wal-Mart could equate with either more or less crime.

"There have been dozens of studies on the 'Wal-Mart effect' showing the company impacts numerous outcomes closely related to crime. Our objective was to determine if the Wal-Mart effect extended to understanding crime rates during arguably one of the most pivotal historical periods in the study of crime," Wolfe says.

The "Wal-Mart effect" is a catch phrase for a wide range of effects -- some good, some bad -- when the company opens a new store. It includes the suburbanization of the local shopping experience and lower prices for everyday items, as well as eroding local retailers and driving down local wages.

3,109 counties

Wolfe and Pyrooz based the study on 3,109 U.S. counties. They focused on Wal-Mart's expansion in the 1990s, a time of dynamic growth for the company and falling crime rates nationally. During that decade Wal-Mart expanded in 767 of those counties.

The researchers suggest that there may not be a direct cause-and-effect relationship between Wal-Mart's presence and crime rates.

"They are very strategic about where they build stores," Wolfe said. "There is something unique about the counties that Wal-Mart selects."

He said that during the period studied, Wal-Mart tended to expand in counties with higher than average crime rates. These counties were more likely see Wal-Mart build even after accounting for crime-related predicators, such as poverty, unemployment, immigration, population structure and residential turnover.

The researchers speculate that much of this relationship occurred because Wal-Mart finds better success building in communities that are less likely to protest the company's arrival.

"Counties with more social capital — citizens able and willing to speak up about the best interests of the community — tend to have lower crime rates," Pyrooz said. "Counties with more crime may have less social capital and, therefore, less ability to prevent Wal-Mart from building."

Wolfe and Pyrooz say the reason why Wal-Mart lessens a decline in crime is a complex question not easily answered by data typically available. Their findings didn't reveal that Wal-Mart growth corresponded with increases in poverty, economic disadvantage or other factors associated with crime.

"More research is needed to uncover why the Wal-Mart effect extends to crime," Wolfe says. "Does it reduce community social cohesion or simply increase opportunities for theft and other crimes in specific store locations that are great enough to influence county crime rates? These are questions that remain."

Crime rates fell across the United States in the 1990s. But in counties where Wal-Mart built stores, the decline was slower, a new study finds. "The...
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Walmart recalls card table and chair sets

The chairs can collapse unexpectedly

Wal-Mart Stores of Bentonville, Ark., is recalling about 73,400 Mainstays five-piece card table and chair sets.

The chairs can collapse unexpectedly, posing a fall hazard and a risk of finger injury -- including amputation.

The retailer has received 10 reports of injuries from collapsing chairs. Injury reports include one finger amputation, three fingertip amputations, sprained or fractured fingers and one report of a sore back

This recall involves the Mainstays card table sets with a black padded metal folding table and four black padded metal folding chairs. “Made by: Dongguan Shin Din Metal & Plastic Products Co,” the company that made the chair cushions, is printed on a white label on the bottom of the chairs.

The furniture, manufactured in China and Taiwan, was sold exclusively at Walmart stores nationwide and online at www.walmart.com from May 2013, through November 2013, for about $50.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled card table and chair sets and return the entire set to Walmart for a full refund.

Consumers may contact Walmart at (800) 925-6278 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT on Saturday, and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Wal-Mart Stores of Bentonville, Ark., is recalling about 73,400 Mainstays five-piece card table and chair sets. The chairs can collapse unexpectedly, posi...
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Walmart price-matching arrest: not for price-matching at all

Moe details come out in the case of Joe Cantrell

More details have come out regarding the strange case of Joe Cantrell, the Arizona man who said he was banned from Walmart after trying to take honest advantage of their price-matching deal; now, it’s starting to look like Walmart’s version of events might be the more accurate.

Cantrell originally said that he went to Walmart to buy Christmas ornaments. Though he had an advertisement showing those same ornaments listed for a lower price somewhere else, the store associate refused to honor the listed price (in apparent violation of Walmart’s price-matching policy), and when Cantrell complained to management, the manager reported him to the police as a threat. When Cantrell returned to the store a few days later, he said, deputies handcuffed him and informed him he’d been banned form all Walmart stores for life.

That’s the basic story most of America (including us) knew about at the beginning of this week. But on Dec. 12, the Phoenix New Time’s Valley Fever blog reported that, according to representatives of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department, Cantrell (and the ABC affiliate that first reported his story) left out some important details:

Cantrell was heard threatening employees with statements "I'm going to mess this mother f_ _ _ker up" while yelling at a cashier, he told employees he didn't care if he got kicked out of the store because he "was going to f_ _ k up, the cashier and he would be waiting outside for him in the parking lot and he was going to do him in."

The Sheriff's Office was called by Walmart, but Cantrell had left the store before deputies arrived. Before leaving, he told the manager "I'm not the person to F _ _ k with, next time I come in I will beat his ass." A deputy investigated the case as employees were afraid for their safety. A video was captured by store security and PCSO deputies recognized Cantrell from prior contacts. Deputies were unable to locate him at his last known address...

Cantrell posted on his "Facebook" account (December 2nd, 2013) "Tonight I almost whipped a Walmart employees ass." One of his Facebook friends responded to his post and said, "I know you heard Joes gonna kill you in the back of your head. But you did the right thing by walking away mad and not kicking his ass and doing to jail." (sic.) Cantrell then responded back to that post by saying, "I have to be honest with you Richard I came very close."

And why did the store associate initially refuse to match the Christmas-ornament price Cantrell wanted? Initial reports did not say, but it turned out Cantrell was trying to price-match an expired Black Friday ad, well after Black Friday, according to later reports.

More details have come out regarding the strange case of Joe Cantrell, the Arizona man who said he was banned from Walmart after trying to take honest adva...
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Walmart price-matching allegedly leads to man's arrest

No more price-matching for Joe Cantrell

An Arizona man named Joe Cantrell has been banned from Walmart for life, after he took advantage of the company’s price-matching policy one time too often — or after he menaced and threatened Walmart employees, depending on whether you believe Cantrell’s or Walmart’s version of events.

According to ABC15 News reporting out of Queen Creek, Arizona, Cantrell is a former professional wrestler who’s now disabled, and thus in reduced economic circumstances. In order to stretch his limited funds, Cantrell started heavily taking advantage of Walmart’s price-matching policy: if you can find a lower advertised price on an identical product, they’ll match it.

Nobody disputes this; the disagreement stems from what happened when Cantrell tried going to Walmart to buy ornaments for his family’s Christmas tree. Cantrell says he tried buying Christmas ornaments at their lower advertised price, but the store associate refused to honor the price. So Cantrell complained to store management, and told ABC15. “When I left, he turned around and called the Pinal County Sheriff's Office and said he felt intimidated and threatened. I was upset but never once did I say anything to the gentleman.”

Banned for life

When Cantrell went back to Walmart a few days later, he says, “I was handcuffed, humiliated and embarrassed in front of everybody at Walmart.” Deputies did not officially arrest him, but gave him a court summons and a notice banning him from Walmart for life.

However, Walmart management released this statement to the media:

"We make every effort to make sure our customers have a good experience in our stores. As in previous situations, we attempted to work with this customer. However, in this situation, the associate felt unsafe and so we contacted local law enforcement. We are continuing to cooperate with law enforcement on their investigation."

Speculation: Cantrell looks to be a pretty big guy, possibly big enough that if he’s obviously in an annoyed mood, an associate might honestly feel “unsafe” even though Cantrell may honestly have never intended to come across as any sort of menace or threat.

Different and more cynical speculation: Cantrell admits that shopping and price-matching at Walmart had become a hobby of his, to the point where he'd visit the store upwards of twice a day, every day. Perhaps the store manager was tired of having to honor so many ad matches from the same guy.

Thus far there’s been no explanation of why Cantrell’s initial attempt to price-match the Christmas ornaments was denied in the first place. When we checked Walmart’s website just before presstime, it still clearly promised: “We’re committed to providing low prices every day. On everything. So if you find a lower advertised price on an identical product, tell us and we’ll match it. Right at the register.”

The website does list certain types of advertised prices that do not apply, including going-out-of-business sales and online offers, but so far there’s no indication Cantrell’s Christmas-ornament ad fell into any of the forbidden categories.

An Arizona man named Joe Cantrell has been banned from Walmart for life, after he took advantage of the company’s price-matching policy one time too ...
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Walmart's employee canned-food drive backfires

Food drive to feed hungry Walmart employees revives old charges of low employee wages

A Walmart store in Canton, Ohio set up a canned-food drive, asking employees to donate food to co-workers who presumably can’t afford to feed themselves on whatever they’re making at Walmart.

According to Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg, when he spoke to theCleveland Plain Dealer, the food drive is proof that Walmart employees care about each other. But according to an organization of Walmart workers seeking better pay and working conditions from their employer, the canned food drive is more evidence that Walmart underpays its employees.

Members of Organization United for Respect at Walmart (a.k.a. OUR Walmart), which first posted a photograph of the canned food drive to its Facebook page on Monday, along with a request to “LIKE if you think Walmart should pay us enough that we can afford to buy our own Thanksgiving dinners!” Indeed, when Cleveland.com reported the story, they headlined it with a question: “Is Walmart’s request of associates to help provide Thanksgiving dinner for co-workers proof of low wages?”

Walmart subsidized?

Walmart critics have long charged that taxpayers effectively “subsidize” the company because so many Walmart workers make so little money, they qualify for food stamps, Medicaid and other low-income welfare benefits; OUR Walmart alluded to this on Monday when it posted the food-drive photo next to the captions “Walmart is asking us to donate food to our coworkers. Why can’t Walmart pay us enough so we can feed our families?” and above a Walmart employee quoted as saying “If I made $25,000/yr, I wouldn’t have to rely on food stamps.”

A Walmart store in Canton, Ohio set up a canned-food drive, asking employees to donate food to co-workers who presumably can’t afford to feed themsel...
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Walmart MoneyCards hacked?

Readers across America report mystery purchases in New York

Based on the number of readers writing us from all over the country with almost the exact same complaint, we suspect that a thieving hacker somewhere in New York City is enriching himself at the expense of Walmart MoneyCard holders. Even worse, Walmart appears to have done nothing about this.

Linda P. of Farmington, Missouri, wrote us on Sept. 2 to complain: “[S]ome man in Brooklyn, New York, got my Walmart card number and made a duplicate card through Walmart's system. That man stole every penny I had on my card and Walmart allowed it to happen. He spent MY money that I earned at a Target in Brooklyn, New York [….] When I called Walmart, I explained to them that the money on that card was all I had for another month. I asked them if they could give me a voucher for food, or drinks. They said NO! […] I may lose everything I have and all Walmart has to say is ‘wait until the posted date’? This is unacceptable. Thank you, Walmart, for ‘guaranteeing’ my money.”

Kelly L. of Canton, Ohio, posted a similar complaint on Sept. 13: “I have had my Walmart money card for almost a year now [….] on 09-09-2013 I woke up to check my account and the balance was $1.41 […] the day before, there were 5 purchases from a Target store in New York [….] I am waiting for [Walmart] to send me a new card so I can get the amount owed to me, then I am closing my account.”

Similar problems

Two Californians reported similar problems on Sept. 15: Paul H. from Downey said “I just got paid Friday and deposited most of my check on my Walmart money card. Bought a few groceries with the card, went home and paid my Sprint bill, all was well. The next day on the way to the park I stopped at the Walmart neighborhood market to pick up some things for the grill, at check out my card was declined [….] I thought I would check my account on my phone. After signing in I saw a balance of zero, I thought, what the hell? I checked my transactions and saw the swipe reload, groceries, Sprint and three charges from Target. [….] Once they saw those New York charges and saw that that same day I was making charges in California they should have stepped up and said we know this is a problem and we will get it resolved. But we'll see what happens; I've got a feeling it's not gonna turn out good for me.”

The same day, Jackie S. of Citrus Heights reported: “I have had a Walmart money card in Sacramento California for the past 7 years [….] this past Friday I used my card at Starbucks early Friday morning; by the time I went to pay for my lunch my whole account was wiped clean. After calling Walmart, they said that somebody in New York, New York used it at a Target when clearly I'm in Sacramento, California; they say I can file a claim but it's going to take probably 45 days to get my 1,500 dollars back.”

Despite the frequent mention of Target, there’s no evidence suggesting that company has anything to do with this scam; it’s simply where the hacker or hackers chose to spend their ill-gotten money (there being no Walmart stores in New York City).

What to do

Walmart has not yet responded to a request for comment. 

If you’re a Walmart MoneyCard holder whose account has been hacked, you should immediately contact Walmart (via email rather than over the phone, so you’ll have an electronic paper trail of your complaints), and also contact your local police department to determine how to file a fraud complaint. 

Entire paychecks go missing from Walmart MoneyCard accounts...
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Walmart latest to add lockers for online order pickups

Amazon has been offering a similar option for customers who can't get deliveries at home

Ordering stuff online works pretty well if you live in a safe neighborhood or if you're home all day and able to hustle deliveries inside before they walk away. But for those not so blessed, online shopping can be treacherous, as Asia of Queens Village, NY, learned.

"I placed an order online which required shipping. I then paid for 5 to 7 business days for the items to ship. ... My package which now says 'left at door step' according to tracking," she said in a recent posting to ConsumerAffairs. "I never saw a UPS truck at my house or even on my street at all that day. I called to complain and request help for my missing package and was told I did not pay for 'priority' shipping and there isn't anything that could be done about my package. That leaves me at a complete loss."

Amazon has been trying to address the problem by offering a locker service at places like 7-11 and Staples. Now Walmart is doing the same, setting up lockers at its stores where customers can pick up their online purchases.

Like lots of retailers, Walmart has previously let customers order goods online and pick them up at the store, but the process requires going to the service desk or otherwise dealing with humans who may or may not be able to find your order.

This is what happened to Robert of Monterey Park, Calif., who described his experience with a Walmart.com order:

"I ordered an item online from site to store pick up on 9/8/12 and paid $38.06. On 9/13 I got an email that my item was ready. When I went to Walmart the girl went to pull my order and checked twice. She said she couldnt find it," Robert said. "No apology or effort was made to get me my item, not even a shipment to my home." 

Of course, Walmart also ships orders to customers, opening them up to the same type of problem Asia encountered.

"I ordered checks through Walmartchecks.com and had them sent overnight delivery," said Christa of Knoxville, Tenn. "They were supposed to be delivered by the 19th, which was yesterday. When 7pm rolled around and I still had not seen a delivery person, I contacted Walmart for the tracking info. They told me that the checks were marked as delivered on Friday the 16th at 9:38 in the morning.

"I immediately called UPS to find out what was going on. I was at home all day on Friday and nothing was delivered by UPS. After a bit of research, it was found out that the delivery driver left them on the doorstep of someone else's house! That particular house happens to be up for sale and I have been unable to reach the owner," she said. "The package is not where it was supposedly left...so now, some stranger has access to my bank account information."

While these isolated examples may sound extreme, they're actually quite common and are a major deterrant to online shopping for many consumers.

Walmart remains the nation's largest retailer with sales last year of $466 billion. It  says it is on track to break $9 billion in online sales this year, compared to Amazon's $61 billion last year.  If either online giant can solve the home-delivery problem definitively, it should give it a big step up.

Wal-Mart Enlists Stores To Boost Online SalesWal-Mart Stores Inc is ramping up plans to combine its physical stores with online technology, testing the use...
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Walmart Offers Email Price Comparisons in Test Markets

The retail giant is asking its grocery customers to post the comparison results on social media

Walmart is trying out a new way of luring grocery shoppers to its stores. It's asking consumers to send a photo of their latest grocery receipt from a competing store.

In return, Walmart says it will analyze the purchases and compare the price the consumer paid to what he or she would have paid for the same items at Walmart.

The promotion is currently being offered in Chicago, Atlanta and Albuquerque, N.M.  Walmart isn't saying if it will be expanded but if it's successful, it's a good bet it will spread to other cities.

Consumers rate Wal-Mart Super Stores

Expressing confidence in the results, the discount giant is suggesting consumers post the results on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. 

The receipt comparison tool is reportedly an extension of a five-month print and broadcast ad campaign featuring real shoppers and actual receipts that challenges consumers to bring their receipts into Wal-Mart to see for themselves how much money they could have saved, Supermarket News reported.

Inventory matters

The price comparison app could be nifty if it works but Milton of Manassas, Va., thinks Walmart needs to pay more attention to keeping popular items in stock.

"The Walmart in Manassas Mall is the only store to stock UPC #60538800293, item #815156. Why do the other stores not stock this item? I have been to the store five times and the shelf is empty. Why? There are 24 on regular order and 96 ordered last week. Where are the cans of cat food?" Milton asked in a recent posting to ConsumerAffairs.

"It appears that the small cans keep coming in and the store has plenty on the shelf, but why should I pay $.47 for a small can when you are supposed to stock the large can for $.70? Come on, let's keep the shelves stocked. I know for a fact that the manager ordered 96 cans last week because I was standing next to him," Milton said.

Walmart is trying out a new way of luring grocery shoppers to its stores. It's asking consumers to send a photo of their latest grocery receipt from a comp...
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Walmart Rolls Out In-Person Payment for Online Purchases

New process gives the "underbanked" the chance to shop online

In an effort to give non-credit and debit card holders an equal chance to buy products online, Walmart has created a new way for their customers to make purchases.

Here’s how it works: Customers can go to Walmart.com, place an online order, then pay with cash at any Walmart store, after receiving an email and presenting their order number to a cashier 48 hours after purchase.

Since the online store theoretically has a wider range of products than the physical store, customers who typically make their purchases with cash, will have the same access to products as their plastic carrying counterparts.

“Many of our customers shop paycheck to paycheck and are looking for more ways to purchase items online but don’t have the means to a credit, debit or prepaid card,” Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com, said in a press release.

“Our new ‘Pay with Cash’ offering is designed just for them.  It makes it easier for our customers to shop the way they want, where they have access to a broader product selection at Walmart.com coupled with the convenience of payment and shipping as they want,” he said.

Underbanked

Consumers rate Walmart's customer service

Not only does this new method benefit those who simply prefer cash to plastic, it also better serves those Walmart customers that are of lower income or considered to be “underbanked” and may not have access to credit cards, or even a bank account.

With a strong desire to tap into the current online-shopping trend, the company's research shows that 81 percent of those customers without credit cards, or a bank account, still have a computer with internet access to make online purchases.

According to Walmart, two thirds of their customers considered to be “underbanked” desired a way to shop online but still be able to pay by cash. In one fell swoop Walmart has addressed this particular customer need, while simultaneously increasing their chances of selling more product and increase profit margins.

Obviously, from a public relations standpoint, it’s Walmart's best interest to market this new buying technique as a great benefit for the buying public, as opposed to a great monetary benefit for Walmart, which it truly is.

This new online cash option will be rolled out to all of Walmart’s 3,800 stores across the U.S., including their grocery store locations. It’s the first of its kind for any major retailer.

Impulse buys

While this does provide some convenience for the non-credit-card-customer in terms of variety, having to physically go to the store for payments dilutes some of that convenience, as an extra step is added to the sometimes hectic buying experience.

Convenient as it is, Walmart’s ‘Pay with Cash’ may negatively impact those “underbanked” households that will potentially spend more money than they normally would.  As current online shoppers can attest, it’s easier to spend and break the bank with an entire store and its products right at your fingertips.   

In an effort to give non-credit and debit card holders an equal chance to buy products online, Walmart has created a new way for their customers to make pu...
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Walmart Adds Icon to Help Shoppers Choose Healthier Foods

"Great For You" icon identifies low-fat, high-fiber products

Walmart is adding an icon to its private label food products to help shoppers pick healthier foods, the company announced at an event in Washington, D.C., today. The "Great For You" icon will initially appear on select Walmart Great Value and Marketside items, as well as on fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables at Walmart U.S. stores nationwide this spring.

“Walmart moms are telling us they want to make healthier choices for their families, but need help deciphering all the claims and information already displayed on products,” said Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart. “Our ‘Great For You’ icon provides customers with an easy way to quickly identify healthier food choices. As they continue to balance busy schedules and tight budgets, this simple tool encourages families to have a healthier diet.”

“Today’s announcement by Walmart is yet another step toward ensuring that our kids are given the chance to grow up healthy,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “Just over a year ago, Walmart committed to save shoppers a billion dollars in their cost of fruits and vegetables and the fact that Walmart exceeded this number is a real accomplishment and a milestone in our efforts to support families eating better. In addition, the healthy seal will be another tool for parents to identify the best products for their kids. Giving parents the information they need to make healthy choices is a key piece of solving childhood obesity.”

Walmart, the nation's largest grocer, said Items with the “Great For You” icon must meet rigorous nutrition criteria informed by the latest nutrition science and authoritative guidance from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Developed in consultation with food and nutrition experts from the public and private sectors as well as leading health organizations, the “Great For You” nutrition criteria are available to the public on the web (www.walmartgreatforyou.com), representing a collaborative and transparent effort to develop a trusted and reliable system for consumers. The icon will also be made available to national brand products that qualify and can be complementary to other nutrition labeling systems being used by the food industry.

“Walmart’s effort to bring healthier food to kitchen tables nationwide was inspired by our customers and informed by the latest food science and policy,” said Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart. “Last year we stood with the First Lady and showed how Walmart, working with its suppliers, the public sector and non-governmental organizations, can truly make a difference in people’s lives.”

Two-step process

The icon serves as a guide to help people make incremental changes to their diet by encouraging more nutritious food choices. The science-based criteria use a two-step process: Step one focuses on encouraging people to eat more fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds and lean meats.

Examples of these items include brown rice, 1 percent milk, raw almonds and 93 percent lean ground beef. Step two limits the amount of total, trans and saturated fats, sodium and added sugars that can be found in items such as sweetened oatmeal, granola bars, flavored yogurt and frozen meals.

“When it comes to food, our customers want a variety of choices, but they also want help identifying healthier options. Customers asked us to make healthier food choices easy while keeping prices low,” said Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of grocery for Walmart. “The nutritionists we engaged told us to make the criteria tough and significant. We feel confident the ‘Great For You’ icon balances those objectives, and will become an important tool Walmart shoppers can use to fill their pantries with healthier food at prices our customers can afford.”

The development of the “Great For You” icon is part of an initiative Walmart launched in 2011 to make food healthier and healthier food more affordable. The initiative includes reformulating packaged food to reduce sodium and added sugars and eliminate industrially produced fats by 2015; making healthier food more affordable by providing savings on produce and reducing the price premium on better-for-you food items; developing solutions for food deserts; and increasing charitable support for nutrition education programs.

Walmart is adding an icon to its private label food products to help shoppers pick healthier foods, the company announced at an event in Washington, D.C., ...
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Feeling Ill? Head for the Nearest Walmart

Retail giant wants to provide primary healthcare services

You have to give Walmart credit.  It never stops innovating.  The retailing giant's latest goal is to become "the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation," The Wall Street Journal reports.

The newspaper says Walmart has been inviting proposals from vendors and contractors to help it gear up to offer services like testing for asthma, sleep apnea and osteoporosis; diagnostic services such as allergy and blood testing; and preventive services such as vaccinations and physical exams, as well as health and wellness products.

Walmart may also set itself up to help consumers manage chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, according to a confidential company document.

Never one for excessive modesty, Walmart said it wants to "dramatically ... lower the cost of healthcare ... by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation."

Maybe someday you'll be able to stop by the Walmart clinic, have some blood drawn, then do your shopping and pick up the diagnosis and prescription as you leave the store.  

Far-fetched?

It might sound far-fetched but with more than 3,800 U.S. stores, lots of positive cash flow and a very nimble inventory control system, there's not much Walmart can't do if it sets its mind to it.

One thing consumers don't think much about is the gargantuan data-processing system that enables Walmart to stock so much stuff in such an organized and cost-efficient manner.  The company was an early adopter of cutting-edge inventory-control systems, enabling it to achieve fast growth without becoming mired down in bureaucracy.

This behind-the-scenes wizardry is what enables Walmart to keep prices low and still turn a profit.  It's also, not coincidentally, the kind of efficient use of information technology that's largely missing  

Could Walmart really turn health care upside down?  It's possible. Think back just a few years and you'll recall that while others wrung their hands over prescription-drug costs, Walmart began offering generic prescriptions of popular drugs for $4.  Competitors followed and consumers saved untold millions of dollars.

In its request for proposals, Walmartreportedly told vendors it wanted to pick the best low-cost services by January and roll them out as quickly as possible.

After all, 2014 is just a few years off.  That's when the new federal health-care laws -- Obamacare to its critics -- fully take effect.  Millions more Americans will be covered by insurance, which is expected to drive up the demand for primary care.  Walmart obviously intends to be ready.   

Word of Walmat's plans was initially revealed by Kaiserhealthnews.org.

You have to give Walmart credit.  It never stops innovating.  The retailing giant's latest goal is to become "the largest provider of primary hea...
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Walmart Shutters Its Marketside Stores

Massive chain's first experiment with smaller stores judged a flop

Marketside locations

Walmart has reportedly given up on Marketside, its experimental small grocery stores featuring prepared meals and fresh food.

The company launched the format in 2008 with stores in Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe, Arizona, hoping to recreate the "bodega" feeling that characterizes many small mom-and-pop stores in urban areas.

Just what went wrong isn't known but Mouth by Southwest, a regional publication, reports that the Arizona stores will close next Friday, Oct. 21.

Walmart continues to operate a handful of Walmart Express stores in test markets in North Carolina, Arkansas and Chicago.

It is also experimenting with a concept called the Walmart Neighborhood, about twice the size of Marketside stores and emphasizing low-cost groceries, prescriptions and household products.  It opened its newest Neighborhood store in Orlando earlier this week.

“With our smaller format, our store is perfect for those on the go. Whether they’re stocking up or need to pick up just a few items, our customers will be able to find what they need quickly and easily,” said Orlando store manager Paula Heath. “Our customers will be able to find familiar brands and local products at great values, right in their own neighborhood.”

Sour economy

The Marketside stores perhaps fell victim to a sour economy that is making consumers less prone to spend a few more dollars on convenience and time-saving products and services.

As far back as June 2009, Walmart was cautioning that it was proceeding cautiously with the concept.

“We’re pleased with it, but at this point in time given the current condition in the marketplace … we are not accelerating that effort until we have better data to make a decision,” Walmart Vice-Chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright told reporters after the retailer’s annual meeting, Reuters reported.

Britain's Tesco has been experimenting with a similar concept in the U.S.  Called Fresh & Easy, the stores are similar to Walmart's Marketside, emphasizing fresh produce and prepared foods.  Tesco said last month that it would open six stores in the Sacramento area next year, in addition to 13 stores already operating in California.

Marketside locationsWalmart has reportedly given up on Marketside, its experimental small grocery stores featuring prepared meals and f...
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Walmart Begins Streaming Movies

Retailer makes third attempt to enter streaming market

Walmart says it is teaming with VUDU to begin offering movie stearming on its website, Walmart.com.

The service is provided by VUDU, a movie streaming service Walmart acquired in 2010, but consumers will complete the transaction while on the Walmart site and pay for the movie through Walmart.com's checkout.

Walmart said that customers already purchase DVDs online. The new streaming service will provide another option for viewing entertainment, allowing customers instant access to their purchase.

The movies may be viewed directly from Walmart.com, VUDU.com, or from one of more than 300 VUDU-enabled devices, including select HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players and the PlayStation3.

"At Walmart, one of our key priorities is to provide a continuous channel for our customers, from our stores to our powerful e-commerce and social media platforms," said Steve Nave, SVP and general manager, Walmart.com. "With VUDU becoming increasingly popular among our customers, we're providing them more access to enjoy this digital entertainment experience directly online at Walmart.com."

The new service became available today. Consumers will pay from $1 to $5.99 to rent movies and may purchase titled from $4.99 to $19.99.

This isn't the first time Walmart has attempted to enter the online movie business. The first effort, in 2005, was short lived. It was followed by a partnership with HP that was also shut down a year later.

Walmart is re-entering the arena at a time when market-leader Netflix has encountered some consumer headwinds, over changes to its price structure announced earlier this month. 

Walmart has launched a movie streaming service...
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Walmart Express Makes Its Debut

Smaller stores go after dollar stores, convenience outlets

Walmart has unveiled its new smaller-format store concept, dubbed Walmart Express, opening its first store in Gentry, Ark., last week with two more opening this week in Prairie Grove and Gravette, Ark.

The stores are targeting dollar stores, convenience stores and, in some cases, pharmacies. They emphasize food, pharmacy and limited general merchandise.

The new store – less than a tenth the size of a Walmart superstore – is a no frills affair with bare concrete floors and an open rafter ceiling and the merchandise mix is heavily oriented toward food along with an emphasis on Walmart’s Site-to-Store service where it ships merchandise ordered online to stores for free.

Bill Simon, president and CEO, Walmart, U.S., said the company has several formats it will be testing -- some with pharmacies, some without. 

“The aim here, folks, is to get the right model so that we can rapidly roll these things out. At our peak we built about 350 supercenters in a year, so when we get this thing right, these are going to come real fast and we’re real excited about this format,” Simon said at a recent investors' conference.

The first stores are a stone's throw from Walmart's corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. But not all of the Express stores will be out in the boondocks. The company has snagged a site in the West Englewood area of Chicago, according to Drug Store News, a trade journal.

West Englewood is an underserved community with very few retail outlets.

Dollar stores have been enjoying strong revenue growth while Walmart stores have posted declines for eight straight quarters. High fuel prices are seen as partly to blame: consumers not only have less to spend but are also more likely to look for a store closer to their home.

Walmart Express Makes Its Debut Smaller stores go after dollar stores, mom-and-pop convenience outlets ...
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Walmart Tries to Get Back On Message

But what once worked well may not work as well anymore

It wasn't long ago that Walmart was trying to broaden its customer base, hoping to attract a slightly more upscale crowd. Now, mired in a sales slump that's lasted seven consecutive quarters, it's wishing it could just get its old customers back.

It's hoping to accomplish that by an advertising and merchandising campaign that takes it back to its “core pricing message” – the time-tested “Every Day Low Prices” slogan that saw it grow from a backwoods chain to Earth's biggest retailer.

An advertising campaign breaking next month will highlight the chain's decades-old everyday low pricing strategy and will also highlight its policy of matching competitors' advertised prices, a policy it's always had but hasn't talked about much.

Spiffed up

In its failed attempt to appeal to a more affluent crowd, Walmart abandoned its cluttered look and its policy of always having the lowest prices on the most basic merchandise. Instead, it spiffed up stores, starting talking about sustainability and organic food and offered discounts on some items while raising prices on others.

The remodeling effort may have been the biggest mistake. The company spent billions of dollars dolling up its stores but, in the process, cut back on its selection.

Now, hoping to return to its roots and win back its $30,000 to $70,000-per-year customer base, Walmart is once again stacking merchandise up to the ceiling and piling up boxes in the aisles, just like the good old days.

Will it work?

Some retail analysts note that times have changed. For one thing, the biggest demographic group in the country – the boomers – have aged. They're beyond their child-rearing years and aren't making as many big stock-up trips to the local Walmart.

Younger consumers, meanwhile, shop differently. Instead of making one or two big shopping trips a month, they tend to order online from the likes of Amazon.com and Drugstore.com – a pattern reinforced by the long hours and long commutes many families face today, not to mention the allure of sales-tax-free shopping that online purchasers enjoy in most states.

Could it be that the supercenter concept has run its course? That's the theory of Leon Nicholas, quoted by trade magazine Advertising Age.

Nor is Nicholas convinced that Walmart's strategy of rolling out small-format stores will be much help. The dollar chains are adding at least 1,000 stores this year while Walmart is adding only a few hundred over the next several years.

Walmart Tries to Get Back On Message. But what once worked well may not work as well anymore...
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Consumer-Protection Lawsuit Filed Against Colorado Loan Modification Company

Company's ad campaign implied it was a partner of the federal government, suit says



Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against American Mortgage Consultants, its owner, Oliver Paul Maldonado, and its principal employee, Santiago Fabian Pineda, on suspicion of defrauding consumers seeking loan modifications and foreclosure relief.

According to the complaint, filed in Denver District Court, American Mortgage Consultants used deceptive advertisements to attract approximately 170 consumers to the loan modification company from January 2009 through March 2010. The company and Maldonado are suspected of using deceptive telephone marketing, direct mail, radio advertisements and Web marketing to attract consumers.

Federal connection implied

According to the complaint, Maldonado also used video of President Barack Obama and materials from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to give consumers the impression that American Mortgage Consultants was affiliated with or partnering with the federal government.

The company and its owner are suspected of charging these consumers $2,500 in upfront fees for its services, which is illegal under Colorado law. American Mortgage Consultants strands accused of doing little if anything to help its customers renegotiate or modify their home loans beyond shipping off their loan modification applications to an Ohio-based company.

"Consumers should always be suspicious of any guarantees a loan modification company makes about being able to keep you in your home or reduce your loan payments," Suthers said. "American Mortgage Consultants' activities were especially troubling because they did virtually nothing for their 'customers' beyond taking their money."

Proceed with caution

Suthers encouraged consumers facing foreclosure to obtain free help from the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline at 1-877-HOPE (4673) before hiring a company to modify your home loan. If consumers are still interested in hiring a loan modification company, Suthers encourages them to bear in mind:

• It is illegal in Colorado for a loan modification or renegotiation company to charge you an upfront fee. Loan modification companies can only charge you once their services are completed.

• Consumers should be wary of any company that tells you to stop making your loan payments or to stop working with your lender. Failing to make payments could result in a foreclosure.

• Never ignore communication from your lender at the behest of a loan modification firm. Most lenders have loan modification programs that can help you save your home. In some cases, all a borrower has to do is contact his or her lender and provide some current financial information.

• If a company promises to get rid of your debt, they are making a promise they cannot keep.

• Check out any loan modification company you are considering hiring. The Better Business Bureau maintains ratings of businesses. Any company with an "F" rating should be avoided.

Recognizing the problems foreclosure relief and loan modification scams present to consumers, the FTC is working to slam the door on these operations.

Consumer-Protection Lawsuit Filed Against Colorado Loan Modification Company...
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Wal-Mart.com Enters Contact Lens Business

Congress Seeks to Increase Contact Competition

Retailing giant Wal-Mart has entered the online contact lens business. Wal-Mart, the world's largest company, already sells contacts in about 1,800 stores and is now promising quick turnaround on online orders.

The announcement coincides with Congressional consideration of a bill that would require that sellers of contact lenses verify the accuracy of the consumers lens prescription with the optometrist or ophthalmologist who wrote the prescription. It would also require that optometrists and ophthalmologists provide contact lens wearers with copies of their prescriptions.

About 34 million Americans wear contact lenses. Wal-Mart's immense buying power enables it to offer rock-bottom prices, making it a threat to other players in any industry it enters.

Those most likely to be hurt by Wal-Mart's latest move include local optometrists, established online contact suppliers and chain stores such as Pearle Vision and Sterling Optical.

Wal-Mart says that orders filed with its Web site will be filled within one to two days and the lenses will be shipped either to the customer's home or to the local Wal-Mart store's vision center.

Contact lens brands available on www.walmart.com include Johnson & Johnson's JNJ.N Acuvue and Acuvue 2 and Focus Dailies, made by Novartis AG's NOVZn.VX CIBA Vision unit.

H.R.2221, the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, was introduced by Rep. Richard Burr (R-NC). Burr says its major goal is to require eye doctors to give patients their contact lens prescriptions. (Currently, eye doctors are only required to give patients their eyeglass prescriptions).

Additional provisions include:

  • Set a 1-year floor for the expiration length of a contact lens prescription and allow state flexibility beyond that requirement. (States have varying expiration lengths from 1-2 years.)
  • As found in the current eye glass rule: a) eye doctors cannot require payment for the release of a prescription and, b) their liability on the content of the prescription is not waived by releasing it to the patient.
  • Make it against the law to represent that patients can receive prescription contact lenses without a prescription.
  • Require the FTC to study the different prescription verification processes around the U.S. and report back to Congress in 9 months.
  • Define "contact lens fitting" and "contact lens prescription."

Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Federal Trade Commission said it supports the goal of promoting greater competition among contact lens sellers and enhancing consumer choice.

Competition among contact lens sellers benefits consumers through lower prices, greater convenience, and improved product quality, said Howard Beales, Director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection.

In 1988, the FTC challenged advertising restrictions on eye care goods and services by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Optometry concluding that the restrictions didnt serve any legitimate purpose and were anticompetitive. The agency ordered the board to stop restricting the advertising, thereby increasing competition among sellers, and reducing costs and increasing choice for consumers.

Increased competition among sellers through advertising, however, does not benefit consumers if the claims made in the ads are false or misleading, Beales said. To prevent such claims from being made in the marketplace, the FTC sued sellers who made deceptive advertising claims for eye care products.:

The testimony cites recent settlements with two of the largest LASIK eye surgery services that bar unsubstantiated claims that the surgery eliminates the need for glasses or contacts for life and that LASIK surgery is less risky than wearing contact lenses. Our cases have enhanced the ability of consumers to make better-informed choices concerning eye care products, Beales said.

Wal-Mart.com Enters Contact Lens Business...
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