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Walmart takes on home-improvement stores with spring sale

Walmart is offering up to 50 percent off outdoor items in a major spring sale starting today  and ending March 29. Lawn mowers and bags of mulch will be among the items offered.

Associated Press

Walmart is offering up to 50 percent off outdoor items in a major spring sale starting today and ending March 29. Lawn mowers and bags of mulch will be among the items offered.

NEW YORK — Walmart is hoping the same winter storms that kept shoppers away in the winter will bring them into stores in the spring.

Starting today, Walmart is having a weeklong sale of up to 50 percent off on more than 60 outdoor items, including lawn mowers and bags of mulch.

The world's largest retailer said the move, which pits it against home-improvement rivals Home Depot and Lowe's, is aimed at luring shoppers looking to restore patios and gardens battered by severe winter weather.

Retailers don't typically discount new spring merchandise so quickly and aggressively, opting instead to slash prices slightly throughout the season. This spring, however, will be more important to many retailers that were hurt by strong winter storms that kept shoppers indoors and forced stores to close hundreds of locations. Industry watchers say other retailers are likely to follow Walmart and offer their own promotions on home improvement merchandise, which has high profit margins.

"This is trying to get growth," said Craig R. Johnson, president of retail consultant Customer Growth Partners. "The early bird catches the worm."

Johnson said Walmart is taking a page from Home Depot, which has been offering a similar sales event for years each spring.

Home Depot and Lowe's, the nation's two largest home-improvement chains, declined to comment on Walmart's move. But Amanda Manna, a spokeswoman at Lowe's, said: "Our expertise in home improvement allows us to serve customers as a partner throughout an entire home improvement project, from inspiration to completion."

In the past, Walmart typically offered discounts on outdoor items or offered special buys throughout the season. This sale, which ends March 29, marks the first time it has pulled the items together to kick off a spring sale, Walmart said.

Walmart said the spring sale was planned last summer as executives received forecasts that the winter was going to be especially harsh. But the company made changes since then because the winter was even more severe than expected.

During the height of the winter weather, Walmart closed more than 200 stores. And Walmart's U.S. discount stores posted a 0.4 percent decline in revenue at stores opened at least a year for the fourth quarter, which encompasses the winter months.

As a result of the more severe weather, Walmart said it bought more pallets of mulch, barbecue grills, patio furniture and other items, though it declined to give specific quantities.

"I love the fact that we had a rough winter, because people are going to be so ready," said Michelle Gloeckler, senior vice president of Home at Walmart's U.S. division.

Walmart takes on home-improvement stores with spring sale 03/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 9:51pm]
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