NEW YORK: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is considering matching online prices from competitors like Amazon.com, raising the stakes for the holiday shopping season.
The world’s largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., has matched prices of local store competitors but has not followed other retailers, including Best Buy and Target, in matching prices of online rivals. But last month, Walmart started to test the strategy in five markets: Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Phoenix; and northwest Arkansas.
The move was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Walmart is trying to rev up sluggish sales in the U.S. as it battles competition from online retailers, and dollar chains and drug stores. Walmart’s namesake business, which accounts for 60 percent of its total business, hasn’t reported growth in a key sales measure in six consecutive quarters.
But matching prices from sellers who don’t have the costs associated with running brick-and-mortar stores also could hurt profits.
Deisha Barnett, a Walmart spokeswoman, says many store managers have matched online prices for customers on a case-by-case basis.
“Taking care of the customers who shop our stores is what we always aim to do,” she added.
Walmart has been trying to reclaim its role as the low price leader. This year, it rolled out an online tool called Savings Catcher that compares prices on thousands of products with those of some of its store competitors. If the tool finds a lower price elsewhere, it refunds the difference to shoppers in the form of a store credit. That’s different from traditional pricing matching because Savings Catcher does the work for the customer.
Walmart has had a price-matching strategy with physical stores for several years. In 2011, it simplified the policy by making sure workers have the advertised prices of competitors on hand at the register, eliminating the need for shoppers to bring in an ad from a rival store.