Walmart Throws Down Holiday Retail Gauntlet with Christmas Price Guarantee

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Why wait for Black Friday? Walmart wants to start cashing in on the holiday action now and has thrown down a challenge to all of its competitors in the form of an aggressive price-matching program for the so-called “hard eight” — the eight weeks prior to Christmas in which retailers vie to get shoppers to spend, spend, spend.

If a customer who has purchased a product at Walmart sees the product advertised elsewhere at a lower price, they only need to bring in their original Walmart receipt and the ad, and the Arkansas-based retail giant will reimburse the difference in the form of a gift card.

Walmart’s new price-matching guarantee follows on its seasonal layaway announcement, and promises consumers that they will get the lowest price on pretty much any product they buy at Walmart between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 — with some all-important exceptions.[more]

What it covers: “Walmart’s Christmas Price Guarantee is valid on purchases made Nov. 1 through Dec. 25 on identical items (the same brand, size, color, quantity, grade and model number) that are currently available at competitor’s stores located within the same local market as a particular Walmart store.”

The exceptions to the guarantee include not matching deals from e-tailers such as Amazon: “Offer excludes: Black Friday ads, expired ads, offers with Gift Cards, internet pricing, limited time or quantity offers (i.e. 6 hour sales), percentage off ads, bundles, trade-in offers, offers that require a purchase or gift provided with purchase, clearance or ads with typographical errors. The Christmas Price Guarantee does not apply to grocery items, non-branded items (i.e. live plants), tobacco, firearms, gasoline, tires, prescription drugs, optical, or wireless products that require a service agreement.”

As the AP points out, this will allow the store to not only benefit from the initial sales but also the inevitable purchases customers make that are worth more than the card’s dollar value.

“The greatest gift we can give our customers this holiday is great low prices on the things they want most,” said Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising officer at Wal-Mart’s U.S. division, in a statement. “Wal-Mart is easing shopping stress this Christmas by allowing customers to shop when and how they want, all while guaranteeing low prices through the entire holiday season.”

Wal-Mart has been struggling in recent years, the AP notes, with “nine straight quarters of declines in revenue at stores opened at least a year in its U.S. namesake business.”

Below, Walmart’s video news release outlines its holiday 2011 price-matching program:

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