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Walmart to streamline way it buys for web site

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Move aims to boost efficiency, improve online offerings

NEW YORK — Walmart plans to streamline its buying process so that the same merchants can purchase products for the retailer’s stores and its web site, according to published reports. The move should help Walmart leverage its considerable buying power to make its online offering more compelling to consumers.

The new approach will mean that products available for sale in Walmart stores will also be approved for sale on the company’s web site, and buyers from the store buying team will be able to make the purchase for both in-store and online venues. Suppliers previously had to work with separate buyers if their products were to be carried on the shelves of Walmart stores and on the company’s web site. The retailer is not actually combining its store and online buying operations, though, and suppliers whose products are only sold online will work with the Walmart.com buying team in San Bruno, Calif. That team will also handle online-only products from vendors that also sell other products in the retailer’s brick-and-mortar stores.

The streamlined buying process, which was expected to be discussed at the Walmart supplier growth conference that began on Wednesday, is part of the retailer’s ongoing efforts to better compete with Amazon.com Inc. in the online space. Late last month Walmart announced that it would offer free two-day shipping on their Walmart.com purchases, without a membership fee. The new free shipping option replaces Walmart’s previous Shipping Pass two-day shipping program, which required shoppers to pay an annual membership fee of $49. (Amazon’s Prime service, which has an annual membership fee of $99, includes free two-day shipping on many items, along with such additional perks as free music and video streaming.)

The free shipping program was announced by Marc Lore, Walmart’s new e-commerce chief, who joined the giant retailer last year with its purchase of  Jet.com.

“We are moving at the speed of a startup,” Lore said at the time. “Two-day free shipping is the first of many moves we will be making to enhance the customer experience and accelerate growth.”

The revamped buying process should help Walmart improve the selection of merchandise it offers online. The assortment of merchandise available on Walmart.com grew last year from 8 million to more than 20 million items, according to a report by Reuters, which added that more than 300 million items are available on Amazon.


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