Wal-Mart Cuts Prices More Aggressively for Back-to-School

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year’s back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

Wal-Mart will reduce prices on 10 percent more items this year, said Steve Bratspies, the company’s executive vice president for U.S. general merchandise. The number of back-to-school items Wal-Mart sells online will grow 30 percent to 75,000, he said.

“Price is going to be extremely important for us, as it always is,” Bratspies said in a phone interview. “It’s about the best prices in the market on a large assortment.”

U.S. households are planning to spend an average of 5 percent more during this year’s back-to-school season, the National Retail Federation said last week. Still, the total spending level will decline slightly to $26.5 billion because the student population is smaller this year. For retailers, the July-through-September period is second only in importance to the year-end holiday season.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, is dropping its prices at the beginning of the back-to-school rush and will leave them at that level for the whole season, Bratspies said. It’s also is offering teachers a 10 percent refund on their out-of-pocket classroom spending, he said. That’s a first for the Bentonville, Arkansas-based chain.

Bratspies declined to discuss current sales trends, citing the retailer’s second-quarter earnings release coming up in mid-August. The industry’s sales have been uneven this year, with chains frequently using discounts and promotions to entice shoppers.

Wal-Mart shares fell 0.4 percent to $76.77 at the close in New York today. The stock has retreated 2.4 percent this year.

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