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Walmart releases online price comparison tool

NEW YORK — The "Every Day Low Price" king is trying to shake up the world of pricing once again.

Walmart says it has rolled out an online tool that allows shoppers to compare prices on 80,000 food and household products to those of its competitors. The world's largest retailer began offering the feature called "Savings Catcher" on its website late last month in seven big markets that include Dallas, San Diego and Atlanta.

The move could change the way people shop and how other retailers price their merchandise. After all, Americans increasingly are searching for the lowest prices on their tablets and smartphones while in checkout aisles. Shoppers do this so often that big retailers like Target and Best Buy have started offering to match the lower prices of rivals — but only if shoppers do the research on their own. The idea behind Walmart's online feature, on the other hand, is to do the legwork for customers.

Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for Wal-Mart Stores' U.S. discount division, said shoppers are looking for "technological answers to saving them money and time."

Walmart, which declined to comment on when the program would be rolled out nationwide, said it's hoping the online tool will build more confidence among Walmart shoppers that it has the best price whenever they shop in stores.

Walmart said the idea for Savings Catcher was born last year during a focus group. The idea instantly resonated with the group, the retailer said, and by last summer, the chain was testing it in four markets on an invitation-only basis. In late February, the company began rolling it out to the seven markets that also include Charlotte, N.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; Minneapolis and Lexington, Ky.

Here's how the tool works: A customer has to set up an account on walmart.com, then log onto the Savings Catcher page and type in the number on their receipt. Shoppers need to register the number within seven days of purchase. Savings Catcher compares prices of every item on the receipt to a database of advertised prices of competitors. The database is provided by an undisclosed third party that analyzes retail ads.

The prices at Walmart stores are matched to competitive stores based on geographic location, but not online retailers. For example, in Atlanta, Walmart compares prices to nearly 20 rivals, including Aldi, CVS, Food Lion, Target and Dollar General. The tool doesn't include purchases on store brands or those made online. The tool also doesn't apply to general merchandise like clothing or electronic gadgets.

The savings are issued on a Walmart online gift card and the customers can accumulate savings or use the credit immediately. Shoppers can use the credit in stores or online by printing out the gift card receipt.

Walmart releases online price comparison tool 03/21/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 7:15pm]

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