August 31, 2009, 12:00 AM

Walmart.com opens a marketplace to other retailers

Taking a page from Amazon, Wal-Mart is throwing Walmart.com open to other retailers who want to pitch their products to Walmart.com shoppers. CSN Stores and eBags.com have signed up to participate.

Taking a page from Amazon.com Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. today announced it is throwing Walmart.com open to other retailers who want to pitch their products to Walmart.com shoppers. Walmart.com is No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Already, CSN Stores, No. 63 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, eBags.com, No. 93, and Dreams Inc., No. 217, have signed up to participate in the Walmart Marketplace.

"We`ve added nearly 1 million new items to our online assortment with the introduction of Walmart Marketplace, making it even easier for customers to find more of what they want when shopping Walmart.com," says Kerry Cooper, Walmart.com`s chief marketing officer. "Working with select retailers, known for their strong customer service and large online assortments of new merchandise, gives our customer more reasons to choose Walmart.com when shopping online."

Amazon pioneered the concept of allowing other retailers to sell to shoppers at Amazon.com. “It’s a shot over the bow of Amazon,” says Nikki Baird, managing partner of research and advisory firm RSR Research. She adds that the election of stores beefs up certain areas where Wal-Mart might not be as strong as others. “It seems to be a pretty strategic choice in terms of the partners added – all Walmart’s weaker points--fashion, home décor,” Baird says “Seems like a win-win for Walmart and partners, once they get all the integration hammered out.”

Baird notes that product searches at Walmart.com right now return only products for Walmart, not for the partner retailers.

In spite of some initial misgivings about exposing their customer data to Amazon, other retailers have been eager to tap into Amazon’s traffic and market-leading brand. Amazon attracts 56 million unique visitors a month, according to Nielsen Online. Walmart.com has 29 million, Nielsen Online reports.

Baird also notes that with stores, Wal-Mart has a big advantage over Amazon and so should try to figure out a way that consumers can order from Marketplace retailers and have the merchandise delivered to a store, as shoppers can do already with merchandise ordered from Walmart itself. “That kind of delivery option would be an advantage over Amazon, which has no stores,” she says.

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