By Jessica Wohl and Alistair Barr
SAN BRUNO, Calif., March 26 Wal-Mart Stores Inc
is ramping up plans to combine its physical stores with
online technology, testing the use of lockers to hold goods
ordered on the Internet until shoppers pick them up, as the
world's largest retailer tries to catch up with e-commerce
leader Amazon.com Inc.
While Wal-Mart is the leading retailer overall with $466.1
billion in annual sales, it trails Amazon and a handful of other
retailers when it comes to selling goods online.
Amazon had $61 billion in sales last year.
Wal-Mart is on track to surpass $9 billion in annual online
sales this year, Neil Ashe, chief executive of its e-commerce
unit, said on Tuesday.
Until recently, Wal-Mart has not broken out its online
sales, and prefers to look at overall sales and the growing
trend of shoppers ordering online and picking up in its
thousands of stores.
"We can build e-commerce equivalent to anyone in the world,"
Ashe said. Mixing the company's expanding online capabilities
with its knowledge from running stores for 50 years "creates a
commerce experience that no one else can do."
LOCKERS COMING THIS SUMMER
One way the company is blending its massive retail footprint
with the faster-growing online marketplace will be to test the
use of lockers. Starting this summer, it will put lockers in
about a dozen U.S. stores to hold goods ordered online until
shoppers pick them up, Ashe said.
The test is one of many steps the retailer is taking to link
its growing e-commerce business with its thousands of stores
around the world, Ashe told a group of reporters at the
company's e-commerce media day in San Bruno, California.
Amazon.com, which has no stores, is installing lockers in
brick-and-mortar stores like Staples Inc to help
customers store and pick up online orders securely.
Wal-Mart hopes its network of physical stores, which number
about 4,000 in the United States, will give it an edge as
consumers increasingly use smart phones while they shop.
Wal-Mart has been testing the shipping of online orders from
a small number of its physical stores for about two years. In
2013, the company plans to expand this program from about 25
stores currently to a total of roughly 50 stores.
This is an effort to compete with Amazon's successful Prime
subscription service, which provides free two-day shipping in
the United States for $79 a year.
Using stores as fulfillment centers that are closer to
customers allows Wal-Mart to offer same-day delivery and
next-day delivery of online orders "at very low cost," said Joel
Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com.
"Is it really efficient to use our stores. We've been
picking and putting items in boxes for years," he added. "Ship
from store is no different. We are picking items from the
shelves and putting them in a box."
Two-thirds of the U.S. population live within five miles of
a Wal-Mart store.
Wal-Mart is also competing against Amazon by increasing the
number of products it has available for sale on its website.
Product assortment on Walmart.com grew 35 percent to 40
percent to two million items in 2012 and the company plans to
double that this year, Kelly Thompson, a Wal-Mart merchandising
Wal-Mart, which hosted a small group of reporters at its
e-commerce headquarters south of San Francisco, faced some
criticism in social media as part of the event.
The retailer asked reporters who were tweeting comments on
Tuesday to use the hashtag #WMTinnovate. Along with tweets from
the reporters, #WMTinnovate tweets were being sent from groups
and individuals speaking out against the retailer.
For example, the union-backed group Making Change at Walmart
posted on Twitter: "@WalmartNewsroom Why don't you start by
empowering the women in your stores with equal pay for equal
work? #equality #wmtinnovate."