Till death do us part: Walmart.com selling caskets

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:58am EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc is now catering to its shoppers' needs from cradle to grave.

The world's largest retailer has introduced online sales of caskets, expanding a merchandise selection that spans engagement rings and baby gear to a new major milestone in its shoppers' lives.

Shoppers can choose from the Lady de Guadalupe steel casket for $895 or a sienna bronze casket for $2,899.00.

Walmart.com spokesman Ravi Jariwala said it is selling the products as a "limited beta test" that launched within the last few weeks.

Wal-Mart has been revamping its merchandise selection in stores and online to expand into categories it believes have high potential for growth.

The funeral service industry generates $11 billion in revenue a year, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. In 2007, the association said the U.S. death rate was 8.0 people per thousand, and that is expected to rise to 9.3 people per thousand by the year 2020.

The caskets do not qualify for Walmart.com's free site-to-store shipping program, where shoppers can buy an item online and have it shipped to a local store for free.

Instead, the website says the caskets require freight delivery to the shopper's preferred address. The estimated shipping cost for the sienna bronze casket is $99.

Competitor Costco Wholesale Corp already sells caskets online.

(Reporting by Nicole Maestri; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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