August 15, 2013, 11:59 AM

Wal-Mart’s online sales increase 30% in the first half of 2013

The retail giant expects to double its online inventory in the second half.

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Wal-Mart says its online sales grew 30% in the first half of the year.

Online sales for Walmart.com and the retailer’s  international e-commerce sites are up 30% in the first half of 2013, said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of global e-commerce, during a conference call today with analysts to discuss Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s second quarter results. Wal-Mart’s comparable-store sales, excluding fuel, for the second quarter ended July 31 were flat, compared with a 2.5% increase a year ago.

Wal-Mart did not provide e-commerce sales figures, but has said it expects to sell $10 billion in products online in fiscal 2014, which ends Jan. 31. Wal-Mart, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, had an estimated $7.7 billion in 2012 online sales. It would take 30% growth for the full year to hit the $10 billion goal.

To get there, Wal-Mart is expanding its online selection, having doubled the number of products on Walmart.com in the first half of the year. Wal-Mart executives told reporters in March Walmart.com was selling nearly 2 million items, 35% to 40% more than a year earlier. Most of those products are sold through other retailers that participate in its marketplace. Wal-Mart no longer is discussing the number of marketplace participants, a spokesman says, but adds that it plans to keep the number relatively small “as we focus on high-quality sellers.” In March, Internet Retailer reported six retailers participated in the marketplace, and Wal-Mart executives said at the time they planned to add more so that Walmart.com could expand its product catalog. Ultimately, they projected that Walmart.com would offer tens of millions of SKUs.

The six participating merchants as of March were Wayfair LLC, No. 52 in the Top 500 Guide; Plumstruck, which is part of Hayneedle Inc., No. 84; eBags Inc., No. 149; ProTeam (part of Fanatics Inc., No. 43); Tool King LLC, No. 384; and Shoebuy.com Inc., No. 93.

Wal-Mart also is using 35 of its more than 4,600 U.S. stores as fulfillment centers for its e-commerce sales. Ashe said these stores handle a double-digit percentage of Walmart.com orders, with most items delivered within two days or less.

Wal-Mart’s also is experiencing international e-commerce growth. Ashe said the number of active site visitors to Chinese e-retailer Yihaodian has doubled in the past year, a measure of the number of customer who made at least one purchase in the past 12 months on the site. Wal-Mart owns a 51% stake in Yihaodian.

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