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The battle for consumers' holiday spending dollars is heating up. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) already slashed prices in the annual toy wars, and now it's hoping to online shoppers with free shipping. However, in trying to outdo its rivals, the retailer may not be going far enough.
According to The Wall Street Journal, about 60,000 items from Wal-Mart's online store will be eligible for free shipping during the holiday season. Shoppers will be able to take advantage of the offer without add-ons like minimum cart sizes or subscription services such as Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Prime service. Wal-Mart's even offering the free shipping deal for many electronics, which can be heavy and notoriously expensive to ship.
However, the deal really only represents about one-fourth of the merchandise offered on its website. Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) hot iPads and iPods are notable exclusions from the deal.
Offering free shipping does help the discount giant respond to traditional rivals such as Target (NYSE: TGT ) and Costco (Nasdaq: COST ) , as well as online retailers like Amazon and Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK ) . The latter's currently advertising free shipping on first orders on its site. Later this month, Target will make a whopping 800,000 items eligible for free shipping when customers spend $50 or more.
When retailers sweeten the deal to lure shoppers, cash-strapped consumers benefit most. The price wars are a brutal slog for retail rivals, though, resulting in margin-busting rebuttals to try to bring in shoppers and drive additional sales. Wal-Mart's trying to stay competitive in this tough shopping season, but the Bentonville behemoth might make more of an impact if it bit the bullet, lifted the restrictions, and offered free shipping on everything it sells.
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