Free Shipping Won't Save Wal-Mart's Holidays

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.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment box below.

Costco and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Apple, Amazon.com, and Costco are Stock Advisor picks. Wal-Mart is a Global Gains recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Costco, and Wal-Mart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.


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  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2010, at 3:27 PM, Glick wrote:

    Site to store available for free anytime.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2010, at 4:27 PM, 123spot wrote:

    thx, glick, you beat me to the draw. wmt just can't get it right for you for long, can it, Ms. Lomax. it gets it right for me as a consumer and a sh. i am proud of its progress on all fronts in spite of the lack of enthusiastic support from almost anyone.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2010, at 9:39 PM, madmilker wrote:

    duh! maybe "123spot" and "Glick" can help me out...

    Back in 2006, Wal*mart, China, Mexico and a container company out of Hong Kong made a deal on a port in Mexico....do any of you two know who owns that container company?

    Oh! and maybe one of you know the whereabouts of Ol'Roy, Sam's bird dog....Sam had him stuffed after he fell dead as a doorknob and after Sam passed away I lost track where the dog went.

    And maybe if you know the answers to those...maybe you can tell me who the person was that took the hyphen from the name and put that big single star there....was it before they moved their Global Procurement Offices to Hong Kong...or...was it after they moved it from Hong Kong to China...

    Wait....I just got to thinking....If they only put 5% foreign in all their stores in China....how many jobs does that create for the other 182 countries that make stuff...and yes,,,it's 5%...they are so proud of the fact that they advertise it under "About Us" on their China web page.

    Dang! I all most forgot...If it was in the year 1985 that Sam Walton started his "Buy American" campaign in all his stores in America....what was he doing inside that factory east of Seoul in the year 1975 while he was listening to that "whistle as you work" song....

    Alyce....you are so right...free shipping ain't gonna help cause there be fifteen super cargo ships that pollute as much as 760 million automobiles and it takes over $9 billion a year in hidden taxes from all Americans just to clean fish from ballast tanks of ships.

    Well, I'll be dip....before I go...maybe you three will read "The Flow of Trade in a Global Economy" by Lance Winslow and when you'll get down to this paragraph....

    "Now let us look at Wal-Mart again; you buy a product there, 6% goes to the employees, 10-18% is profit to the company, 25% goes to other costs and 50% goes to re-stock or the cost of goods sold. Of the 50% about 20-25% goes to China, a guess, but you get the point. Now then, how long will it take at 433 Billion dollars at year for China to have all of our money, leaving no money flow for us to circulate? At a 17 Trillion dollar economy less than 40-years minus the 1/6 they buy from us. Some say that if we keep putting money into our economy, it would take forever, but if we do not then eventually all the money flow will go. If China buys our debt then eventually they own us, no need to worry about a war, they are buying America, due in part to our own mismanaged trade, so whose fault is that? Not necessarily China, as they are doing what's in the best interests, and we should make sure that trade is not only free, but fair too."

    .....you will realize just how that squiggly line song was born.

    good night little and God Bless!

    Made In America............priceless!

    Support your town..........shop around!

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2010, at 11:30 PM, rkumarsmail wrote:

    To Wal-Mart I say: "It is the Sales Tax Stupid !"

    As long as I get the Sales Tax savings shopping at Amazon, my Christmas shopping dollars are going to Amazon!

    If Wal-Mart is smart, they should not wait for any legislative or legal relief to end this anti-Main St. state of affairs, and instead adopt the wisdom of "If you can't beat them, Join them!" by following Amazon's playbook and setting up a network of arms-length subsididaries and limited partnerships like Amazon does with such finesse and imputiny to dodge the Sales Tax bite for its customers.

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