November 10, 2011, 2:34 PM

Wal-Mart takes e-commerce to the mall

The retail chain opens up e-commerce ‘stores’ where consumers can order online.

Allison Enright

Editor

Lead Photo

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has planted its e-commerce flag inside two Southern California malls with the opening of Internet hubs where consumers can shop from the retailer’s web site. Dubbed “Walmart.com stores,” the two temporary encampments opened on Nov. 1 and likely will close on Dec. 31, right as consumers brace themselves for their holiday season credit card bills.

One of the Walmart.com stores occupies 1,000 square feet inside the Westfield Topanga mall in Canoga Park, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. The other store takes up 3,000 square feet in the  Westfield Horton Plaza mall in San Diego.

“It’s not uncommon for us to look for ways to better serve customers in different formats and different markets,” the spokesman for the retail chain tells Internet Retailer. “We have an opportunity in the holiday season to test this offering and give customers easier and more convenient access to the site. We will be watching to see how customers react to it.” He says there are no plans to open more .com stores at this time.

The spokesman says that each temporary store has about a dozen computers and up to five clerks working at peak times. The Walmart.com stores feature product displays and demonstration copies of popular gift items such as toys, Blu-ray players, video games and TVs. Consumers can touch and test the products in the store but then are directed to a computer to order them on Walmart.com, the spokesman says. He says the temporary stores do sell some small product accessories.

The stores also serve as delivery points for products ordered from the site, though consumers can pick up those orders at regular Wal-Mart stores, too. Orders placed at the temporary stores and delivered there, or to another Wal-Mart store, ship free, the spokesman says. Consumers who have orders shipped to their homes pay the applicable shipping fees but then receive a rebate on that cost in the form of a gift card redeemable only at Walmart.com.

Neither temporary store exists in anything resembling a Wal-Mart retail desert. The retailer operates two of its regular stores within 10 miles of the Canoga Park temporary store, and six within 10 miles of the San Diego temporary store, according to the results of a store locator search conducted on Walmart.com.  The retailer operates approximately 3,800 stores in the U.S.

Walmart.com is No. 6 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

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