By Jessica Wohl and Alistair Barr
SAN BRUNO, Calif., March 26 Wal-Mart Stores Inc
, facing growing competition for quick delivery of
physical goods from online retailers like Amazon.com Inc
, said on Tuesday it would start using its stores to get
Internet orders to customers faster.
While Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer by overall
sales, on the Internet its revenue is a small fraction of
Amazon's, adding some urgency to its e-commerce efforts.
Wal-Mart said it would soon test having lockers to hold
goods ordered on the Internet in stores until shoppers pick them
up. It is also doubling the number of stores that can fill
orders placed online, an attempt to match the reach of Amazon's
Those tests, along with services such as letting shoppers
pay for online orders in stores with cash, are some of the ways
Wal-Mart is trying to link its online business with its
thousands of stores, executives told reporters at the company's
first global e-commerce media day in San Bruno, California.
While Amazon had $61 billion in sales last year, Wal-Mart is
on track to surpass $9 billion in annual online sales this year,
said Neil Ashe, chief executive of its e-commerce unit.
Until recently, Wal-Mart had not broken out its online
sales, but Ashe insisted the company would be able to build a
competitive e-commerce business.
LOCKERS COMING THIS SUMMER
Starting this summer, it will put lockers in about a dozen
U.S. stores to hold goods ordered online until shoppers pick
Lockers are a growing trend in e-commerce. As more packages
turn up on shoppers' doorsteps theft has increased, especially
in urban areas, spurring demand for secure places nearby to
Amazon, which has no stores, has installed lockers in
grocery, convenience and drug stores for several years. Google
Inc acquired a delivery locker start-up called
BufferBox in November.
Wal-Mart is also planning a small expansion of a running
test to ship online orders from physical stores. In 2013, the
company plans to double the program to about 50 stores, a
fraction of its nationwide footprint.
Using stores as fulfillment centers that are closer to
customers lets Wal-Mart offer same-day delivery and next-day
delivery of online orders "at very low cost," said Joel
Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com.
Two-thirds of the U.S. population live within five miles of
a Wal-Mart store. That said, the company will likely expand this
approach to hundreds of stores rather than thousands.
For example, in the Dallas area, Walmart has more than 100
stores. It would only need two or three of those stores to act
as distribution centers to get the financial benefit of this
approach, said Jeff McAllister, senior vice president of Walmart
The expansion is another part of Wal-Mart's efforts to
compete with Amazon's successful Prime subscription service,
which provides free two-day shipping in the United States for
$79 a year. Another front in that battle is the expansion of
what Wal-Mart's website sells.
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, said Kelly Thompson, a Wal-Mart
But Wal-Mart's digital efforts are not without growing
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.
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