Wal-Mart starts $1 program

Wal-Mart employees stock the jewelry aisle at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc is offering aisles filled with merchandise priced at $1 and taking other steps to boost sales in its second quarter, an executive said in an interview on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the world’s largest retailer reported a flat first-quarter profit. In its current second quarter, it now faces tough comparisons with a year ago, when its results were boosted by customers spending tax rebate cash in its stores.

Treasurer Charles Holley said Wal-Mart has planned a number of merchandising initiatives to appeal to cash-strapped shoppers, including its dollar program.

“If you go down the aisles, you’ll see an aisle where everything is $1, and we’ll be doing more things like that throughout the next couple of months,” he said.

Smaller discount chain Target Corp already has $1 sections near the front of its stores stocked with accessories and seasonal items.

Holley said customers continue to be worried about the economy and unemployment, although they have a little bit more money to spend on discretionary items, like home goods, because gasoline prices remain below year-ago levels.

He said it is still tough to forecast whether the economy has hit a bottom.

“I think it’s too early to know where the economy is going at the moment,” he said.

Reporting by Nicole Maestri, editing by Gerald E. McCormick.