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Sales sliding, Wal-Mart launches low-price blitz

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. launched a national TV ad campaign Monday highlighting its renewed focus on low prices and its price-matching policy in a bid to bring back customers who no longer trust that it has the lowest prices.

Associated Press (2010)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. launched a national TV ad campaign Monday highlighting its renewed focus on low prices and its price-matching policy in a bid to bring back customers who no longer trust that it has the lowest prices.

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart Stores is hammering home its low-price message with a new ad campaign in a bid to bring back customers who no longer trust it to save them money.

The campaign, which started Monday, bears the slogan "Low Prices. Every Day. On Everything." It features five 30-second commercials that range from an Easter egg hunt to a customer asking for a price match.

"We have lost our customer confidence … in having the lowest price," said Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising officer at Wal-Mart.

The new commercials come as Wal-Mart's U.S. business is smarting because of mistakes it made on price and selection and as it faces increasing price competition from dollar chains and Amazon.com.

Wal-Mart is restoring thousands of items it had stopped carrying in an overzealous bid to clean up its stores, from fishing supplies in Dallas to snowblowers in Minneapolis, and, to change perceptions, the company also said it is directing store employees to comb through competitors' advertisements so price matches at the register are easier.

"Our company is determined to create the best one-stop shopping experience and low prices on the right products backed by a clear, consistent ad match policy," MacNaughton said.

The world's largest retailer failed to reverse an almost two-year slide in a key revenue measure in its fourth quarter, which ended in January, after all but promising in November it would do just that.

Last year, Wal-Mart had strayed from its "everyday low prices," the bedrock philosophy of founder and namesake Sam Walton. Late last year, it switched back to emphasizing low prices across the whole store, instead of heavily promoting selected items.

The campaign is an acknowledgement that Walmart stores' traffic is still weak, Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi said.

"I am concerned that Wal-Mart is taking to the airwaves at the same time it acknowledges it's not where it needs to be with product restoration, therefore risking customer disappointment yet again," he said.

Wal-Mart said it is adding 8,500 items to its inventory, an 11 percent increase in an average store. In some categories, the selection will be more than before the inventory slashing, McNaughton said.

The changes are bringing back local food favorites and national brands in household basics and general merchandise like consumer electronics. Some changes are tailored to local markets. In Phoenix, for example, shoppers will find pool supplies and lawn and garden items year-round.

Wal-Mart's price-match policy has been around for several years, but in recent months, the company has been using it as a weapon to compete with rivals. One commercial, released Monday, focuses on its ad match guarantee.

The ad features a customer pointing to an ad flier and informing the cashier that a product is 20 cents cheaper at a rival store. Everyone in the store, from the person who stocks the shelves to the manager, scrambles to help, yelling, "Match it!"

Sales sliding, Wal-Mart launches low-price blitz 04/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 11, 2011 10:37pm]
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