Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), the bargain retailer known for its massive big-box stores, is using its heft to boost online sales to better compete with the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN) and eBay.
Wal-Mart announced on Monday that it has begun selling one million more items through its website, walmart.com. Wal-mart Marketplace offers products in categories such as sporting goods, apparel, baby, home, luggage and toys. Among the retailers included are CSN Stores, ebags and ProTeam, with more to be added.
The move will give Wal-Mart better footing to compete with Amazon.com and Apple (AAPL), which, according to analysts, has displaced Wal-Mart as the largest seller of music.
This gives Wal-Mart a chance to close the widening gap with Amazon.com and Apple," said retail consultant Burt Flickinger III, adding that growth in online sales is an area that Wal-Mart has yet to conquer.
Wal-Mart saw a change in leadership earlier this year, with Mike Duke assuming the reins of Arkansas-based company started by Sam Walton nearly 50 years ago. One result has been a shifting of managers in an effort to boost sales throughout the company. "Wal-Mart is fully focused on winning against every key competitor on land and online," Flickinger said.
The announcement wasn't enough to prevent Wal-Mart shares from falling slightly in Monday trading. Wal-Mart stock lost 26 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $50.87 a share. The retailer's shares followed a market-wide trend that saw the Dow Jones industrial average, of which Wal-Mart is a component, lose slightly about a half percent of its value.
The move comes at a time when Wal-Mart needs to boost sales. Earlier this month, the company reported same-store sales slipped 1.2 percent in its fiscal second quarter, which ended July 31. The sales slide didn't result in lower earnings, however, with net income registering at 86 cents a share, topping analyst estimates.
Nonetheless, Wal-Mart's slip in sales was unexpected and worrisome. Given the retailers heft and reach in the marketplace, its inability to improve sales may portend weakening in the overall U.S. economy.
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