March 31, 2011, 12:00 AM

Wal-Mart's new pitch: Order online, pick up at a store within four hours

Just in time for barbecues, household projects and gear-buying plans for summer vacations, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will make its Pick Up Today program available at stores nationwide for orders placed on Walmart.com.

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Just in time for summer barbecues, household projects and gear-buying plans for summer vacations, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will make its Pick Up Today program available at store locations nationwide for online orders.

The service allows consumers to buy online at Walmart.com and pick up their orders at a nearby store in about four hours.

The multichannel retailer began testing the service in October in about 800 stores. The test limited the products eligible for same-day pick-up to select electronics, video games and household appliances. The company says the national rollout will encompass nearly 3,600 stores and up to 40,000 products, including products in additional categories such as baby, toys, home dŽcor, hardware and outdoor living. Food products are not eligible for the program at this time.

"We've seen strong customer response from initial tests of Pick Up Today, and we're pleased to expand the program," says Steve Nave, senior vice president and general manager of Walmart.com.

Wal-Mart joins other large retail chains, including Best Buy Co. Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp., in offering same-day, in-store pick up for online orders. "Wal-Mart is uniquely positioned to combine the power of e-commerce with our national retail footprint to offer a leading, multichannel experience that delivers the best savings and convenience to our customers," Nave says.

Wal-Mart also announced it is cutting the shipping window for its Site-to-Store shipping program from 7-10 days to 4-7 days. The program allows consumers to have their Walmart.com orders shipped free to their local stores.

Multichannel retailers can reap more sales if they can get shoppers into their bricks-and-mortar stores more frequently, says Morgan McAlleney, senior vice president of digital at Integer Group, a marketing agency that studies shopping behavior. He says that when shoppers go into stores, they typically end up buying more products than when they shop online. "There's the feeling that says, ÔI drove, I paid for gas, I need to make this trip worthwhile,'" he says.

allison@verticalwebmedia.com

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