August 21, 2005

Always the Lowest Prices in the UK?

Wal-Mart doesn't always have the lowest prices in the U.S., and Asda is not always Britain's lowest price supermarket, and it must not say so in its ads, since a single basket of 33 goods used to buttress the lowest price claim is not representative of the tens of thousands of goods sold by supermarkets in the UK.

Posted by Kevin at 10:08 AM

May 25, 2005

$5 Basketballs: Then and Now

John Palmer reveals his true self : he loves shopping at Wal-Mart!

As I walked down one aisle, I was blown away by a display of basketballs. A huge cage of yellow, smiley-faced, Mr. Rollback Mascot basketballs. They were under $5, so I bought one. I love it....

When I first moved to Canada, about 68 years ago, I bought a basketball for, I think, about $5 then, which would be the equivalent of about $50 today. Being able to buy a really nice basketball today for one-tenth the price of one back then just amazes me.

And no, John is not Elvis.

UPDATE! John updates his post with a photo of the ball:

WM Basketball - John Palmer.jpg

Posted by Kevin at 6:32 AM

May 17, 2005

Fake Rollback Prices?

I cannot verify this story, but sone man alleges that Wal-Mart is faking rollback prices:

"Rollbacks". The price on the self [sic] at Wal-Mart said the price was rolled back to $74 from $88. When I got it home and looked at the box, the "original" price was $74. In other words it was "rolled-up" then "rolled-back". Tricky, huh?
Later in the forum, one person decries the stuipidity of the orginial poster not being able to get the DVD player to work.

[H/T: Examining Guest Relations]

Posted by Kevin at 3:32 PM

April 24, 2005

Bargains at walmart.com

Here's a "blog", a subsidiary of More Stuff 4 Less, devoted to deals and bargains on walmart.com. Once you get there, it's obviously a site devoted to money-making.

Posted by Kevin at 7:09 AM

April 1, 2005

Wal-Mart & Gasoline

At Market Power, Phil Miller is all over the accusation the Sam's Club is engaging in "predatory pricing" of gasoline in voliation of Minnesota's minimum gas price law:

First, if consumers in the small town have an option to buy low-price gasoline at a "corporate" gas station, why should the government restrict their options and how would this be devastating to the community? It would have just the opposite effect. Sure, the owner of the gas station would feel a negative effect, but the consumers of gas in the small town would gain. Not only could they get gas cheaper, but they can put the savings towards the purchase of other things.

Second, those who use the predatory pricing argument say they fear monopolization. Never mind that the evidence suggests that predatory pricing exists in models but not in practice.

Posted by Kevin at 12:04 PM

March 31, 2005

Wal-Mart's Prices are Different in Each Store

Some people found this out the hard way:

A mistake? Nope: Wal-Mart calls it "competitive pricing."

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman in bentonville arkansas told us:

--"We set suggested prices for each item. But store managers are allowed to lower them further to remain competitive with nearby stores."

That may mean a Wal-Mart close to a Target store may have better deals than a stand-alone Wal-Mart.

And if it's close to Target, Meijer, and Biggs, you may have hit the jackpot.

For loyal Wal-Mart shopper Lesley Parrett, it was all "a big surprise, a huge surprise!"

My advice? If you have a choice, look for discount stores that are clustered together: For instance a Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Target all within a block or two.

With so much competition, you may get lower prices, so you don't waste your money.

I'm John Matarese.

Thankfully, his solution was not to complain bitterly.


[H/T: EastSouthWestNorth]

Posted by Kevin at 3:28 PM

WM Vs. Target Price Comparisons

Via Eighty-Twenty, we find a monster article on the prices of the two discounters on cockeyed.com. Comparing 20 items, Wal-Mart came out ahead $4.89, for a savings of about 4% over Target:

It was fun to compare prices in Target and Walmart. Obviously a 20-item test isn't a particularly thorough price-comparison, but I'm satisfied that these results will help to illuminate the difference in these two discount retail chains.

I really tried to be as impartial as possible, but with statistics, it is almost impossible to describe a situation without a bias.

The obvious next comparison is the newly-merged K-Smears, but I think I'll check how Amazon stacks up first.

Thank you.

I'm glad there are people out there crazier than I am.

Posted by Kevin at 9:37 AM

March 25, 2005

�3 jeans war

The Evening Times gives us the skinny on the Asda-Tesco jeans war:

TWO top supermarket chains today slashed the price of jeans to just �3 - the price of a pint of lager and a packet of crisps - in a vicious price war.

Asda reduced the price of its jeans which were already selling for �4 by a further �1....

In response, Tesco - which also sold jeans for �4 - announced it would match Asda's price....

Five years ago, Asda's least expensive jeans cost �16. Since then they have gradually slipped lower. Last year they fell from �6 to �5 to �4.

Posted by Kevin at 9:34 AM

March 22, 2005

Zellers Gives Up Every Day Low Prices

Some stores just can't give up the department-store-Wednesday-sale mentality:

"Wal-Mart beats it into you with their advertising, over and over, everyday low prices: 'We're constantly rolling back prices,' " Mr. Manget said. "That's what they stand for."

It is difficult to switch to EDLP, rather than establishing it from the start as was essentially the case with Wal-Mart, he added. It can take 18 to 24 months to sell the proposition to consumers.

In the process, Zellers found that customer traffic in stores was declining, leading to weaker financial results, he said. This inevitably prompted the decision to drop EDLP in some areas.

"You could call it a retreat," he said. "I'd just call it a recognition that they probably couldn't compete on traffic and everyday low prices with Wal-Mart."

Wal-Mart succeeds in EDLP because it is fanatical about slashing its own costs and passing on savings with even lower prices, said John Williams of retail consultancy J. C. Williams Group.

Without constant markdowns, the world's largest retailer doesn't need to pour huge amounts of money into price changes and advertising those changes in flyers and on store signs, he said.

Posted by Kevin at 4:00 PM

January 2, 2005

New Service Finds Lower Food Prices than Wal-Mart's

I thought that it was pretty clear that if you're willing to buy only sale items, you can save a lot by shopping the regular grocery stores. Still, the Grocery Advantage will help you find the best deals:

The service, The Grocery Advantage, was launched in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky in December after opening in Columbus a year ago. It has more than 2,000 subscribers.

"I've been couponing for several years now and thought I was pretty thorough on catching the deals," Beneker said. "But after viewing the Grocery Advantage reports, I realized I was missing a lot."

Subscribers such as Beneker pay $15 to use The Grocery Advantage Web site, where they find local reports listing sale items at area Kroger and Meijer stores. They use the reports to find the best savings and to identify which coupons will help them save the most by matching them with the sale items and coupon promotions.

The detailed report lists the retail cost of a product and its cost savings with markdowns and coupons.

Kroger and Meijer are the only stores the service analyzes because they have the best deals when combined with coupons, said Michael Berberick, who founded the service with his wife, Montelle LeVering.

Bigg's was not competitive, said Berberick. And although Wal-Mart supercenters are typically reported as having the lowest prices, Berberick says The Grocery Advantage system regularly beats its prices.

"Several weeks ago we analyzed our best deals and compared them with everyday low prices at the one Wal-Mart Supercenter already in Cincinnati (in Fort Wright)," Berberick said. "The 125 items would cost about $265 at Wal-Mart and only $65 at Kroger and Meijer.

"We have data that shows price comparisons including shopping at Wal-Mart with and without coupons vs. Kroger and Meijer. Most people do not realize how great the savings can be at Kroger and Meijer. These kind of savings are not available at Wal-Mart."

Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that you would need only those 125 items... Also, if you ever meet me in person, NEVER--EVER--say that price is only now becoming important, like this fool insists:
"It's a very interesting and timely service because price is becoming increasingly important to shoppers," said Jon Hauptman with Willard Bishop Consulting
So when the average income was $1 an hour, people weren't concerned about prices???

Posted by Kevin at 9:43 AM

December 20, 2004

WM has $498 Linux Laptop

Last week we noted that WM will be selling a $200 Linux OS desktop. Even more impressive is the $500 Linux OS laptop just announced:

Walmart.com (WMT) said it is breaking the price barrier for a laptop with a complete operating system and office suite by marketing a Linux-based machine for $498

Posted by Kevin at 9:43 AM

December 17, 2004

Inexpensive Orchids

The drop in Orchid prices is not all WM's doing, but is an example of what creative destruction actually delivers:

Orchids have become an affordable option for the holiday mantle, too, says Karen Houghton, a decorator and the owner of Karen Houghton Interiors in Nyack.

"Something I've noticed is that orchids are so reasonable today," she says. "They used to be $60 to $75, but now they're available at stores like Target, WalMart and Home Depot for $15 to $25."

File this under anecdotal evidence... along with this unofficial reprint of an Aug 4, 2004 New York Times article on the production of cheap Orchids, excerpted below:

Rising from what was once a muddy expanse of sugar cane fields here are huge greenhouses and the concrete shells of what will soon be a flower exposition hall, a genetic modification laboratory and more - the first steps in Taiwan's plan to dominate the world's $2 billion orchid industry.

If the Taiwan effort is successful, orchids could lose their image as the high-priced but finicky princes of the floral world and become lesser nobility, almost as inexpensive as poinsettias. The favored flower for debutantes' corsages a generation ago, orchids are already starting to appear in rows of $15 potted specimens at mass merchandisers like Home Depot, and seem poised to become even cheaper.

With their mysteriously complex shapes and colors and their exotic and inaccessible homes in swamps and tropical forests, orchids were the darlings of wealthy collectors in Victorian days. They were hunted across the globe by adventurers who not infrequently gave their lives in pursuit of very rare varieties that even today can sometimes bring thousands of dollars.

Large commercial greenhouses have robbed orchids of some of their elite cachet since then. Now, if Taiwan is successful, there could be orchids for the masses. Seeking a cash crop to replace sugar, which is plagued by falling prices, Taiwan is hoping to double its orchid business, and the government plans to bring heavy public spending into the previously private world of growing orchids....

As in many industries, the spectacular economic expansion in China has cushioned orchid growers somewhat from rising competition. In January, Chinese buyers bought up practically every live red orchid in Asia and Europe for Chinese New Year, paying breathtaking prices of as much as $30 a plant at wholesale, said Andrew Easton, an executive at Kerry's Bromeliads in Homestead, Fla.

But the long-term trend in orchid prices is clearly downward, even as quality improves. Mr. Easton remembers paying $80 in 1958 for a small purple cattleya.

"Now,'' he said, "I can get an orchid as good as that one for $25.''

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 AM

November 29, 2004

97¢ Shipping at WalMart.com

97cent.gifFor a limited time only, Walmart.com is offering 97¢ shipping on select toys and video games:

Walmart.com, the Internet arm of Bentonville-based giant, bricks-and-mortar Wal-Mart Stores, kicked off its holiday shopping season with Thanksgiving week specials offering savings on items not available in its stores. To sweeten the pot, it offered 97-cent shipping on toys and video games.
More details here and here .

Posted by Kevin at 11:05 AM

WM vs. WalMart.com

Sometimes WM's prices are so low, they are below themselves:

Lower prices are also helping lure shoppers online.

"They have to be competitive online just to be in the ballgame," Schatt said.

For instance, Walmart.com offers a Konica Minolta Z2 digital camera for $50 less than the "everyday low price" for the same camera in one of the retail giant's stores.

Posted by Kevin at 10:58 AM

November 5, 2004

WM Enters and Big Grocers Cut Prices

This is how WM benefits the everyman:

Giant Eagle Inc. will cut prices on about 3,000 brand-name items to keep pace with competition from Wal-Mart, the supermarket chain announced.

The average 7 percent discount should save customers about $35 million a year, said officials with Giant Eagle, based in the Pittsburgh suburb of O'Hara Township. The company has 221 stores in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but an average seven percent price reduction is a tremendous markdown for a grocer.

Posted by Kevin at 2:46 PM

October 30, 2004

WM Pickles

We've previously noted a Kitchen Cabinet post debating the efficiency of purchasing the mammoth jar of WM pickles. I'd also note this post on Gaper's Block for the sparring the author and I had in the comments.

I had almost forgot about the infamous Fast Company Vlasic pickle article (The Wal-Mart you Don't Know) until Tyler Cowen reminded me.

Although the article is an excellent story, more amazing is that even though it was published about 10 months ago, it continues to draw a great number of comments... 441 as of today...

Posted by Kevin at 12:05 PM

October 25, 2004

$10 CDs

Barry Ritholtz has combed Rolling Stone to tell us that WM wants $10 CDs:

Does a CD have to cost $15.99? That's the question mass retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy have been asking for some time now. The Major labels have come to realize that when Wal-mart asks a question, well, it not a request. The nation's largest retailer is also the country's biggest record seller, and if it cannot lower its prices -- they are threatening to take their ball and go home. Wal-Mart has quietly implied it will back out of the music retialing business.
This is a must-read post.

Posted by Kevin at 12:05 PM

May 14, 2004

It's About Prices

Don Boudreaux links to this Scotsman article by John Blundell:

Wal-Mart is rather more than a chain of shops. It is a force for change. It has vociferous critics but I think it is a force for good.
Let me repeat. WM is the cutting edge of creative destruction.

Posted by Kevin at 11:01 AM

Check Cashing @ WM

Wal-Mart announced that it will charge a maximum fee of $3 for cashing preprinted and government checks up to $1000, and will cash the checks of all its employees for free.

As you might have guessed, the competition is furious:


Free standing check cashing services are not happy about Wal-Mart's newest low priced foray. The California Department of Justice, which regulates the industry, allows check cashers to charge as much as 3.5 percent, depending on the amount of the check, reports the Knight Ridder/ Tribune Business News. Nationwide, there are an estimated 10,000 check-cashing stores that handle an average of 180 million checks a year totaling $55 billion, according to Financial Service Centers of America, the industry's major trade group. About 35 percent of these stores belong to major operations like Ace Cash Express in Irving, Texas, and Berwyn, Pa.-based Dollar Financial Corp., the trade group reports. Smaller companies own the rest.

Check-cashing stores primarily serve lower- to middle-income people making less than $40,000 a year and generate fees of about $1.5 billion per year. Many are unable to afford bank account fees or maintain a minimum balance.

"It is a very, very competitive business, and very fragmented," said Bernard Flaherty, president and chief executive of Chicago-based Popular Cash Express, a division of Banco Popular and the nation's third-largest check-cashing chain.

Folks, this is what WM is doing to the low-end retail sector all around. It is making all sorts of goods, and now services, into commodities. It profits by serving consumers with prices lower than its competition has ever tried:
Interestingly, consumer groups are, for once, taking the side of Wal-Mart, reports the Knight-Ridder/Tribune. Many believe check-cashing fees have traditionally been too high and take advantage of lower income people. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which regulates the country's banking industry, estimates that 10 percent to 12 percent of U.S. households don't have a bank account. Some consumer groups say the number is even higher.

The unbanked population, as this segment is called, typically have lower incomes, don't own their homes and are under 35 years old, nonwhite or Hispanic, unemployed and lack a high level of education, the FDIC reports.

Posted by Kevin at 8:15 AM

May 10, 2004

Video Game Survey

Kevin below posted a story on how Wal-Mart isn't the low price leader for video games. Here's the report in its near entirety:

Consumer
Game Pricing At Retail; Confession Time For WMT
KEY POINTS:
RETAIL PRICING SURVEY: We surveyed seven leading retailers of video game software for best pricing practices and included a count on used game software. We picked 30 video game software products to price including a mix of new and older games for various hardware platforms. Below we highlight the pricing results for the "basket of video game software" by retailer.

Total Price - All 30
Games
% Over
Low Price
#1. Amazon.com $1,134.51
#2. Best Buy $1,164.70 2.7%
#3. Target $1,179.70 4.0%
#4. GameStop $1,189.70 4.9%
#5. Electronic Boutique $1,204.70 6.2%
#6. ToysRus $1,212.69 6.9%
#7. WalMart $1,231.76 8.6%
Average $1,188.25
Electronic Boutique
(used)
$995.70 -12.2%
GameStop (used) $983.70 -13.3%
WALMART IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE RETAILER: We continue to be surprised that retailers generally do not break minimum advertised price (MAP) levels in the video game software category. Much to our surprise, WalMart was the most expensive retailer of video game software according to our survey, boasting an average price point 9% higher than Amazon.com, and 6% higher than Best Buy. Moms, dads, and kids know that GameStop and Electronic Boutique are the video game destination of choice as they accept games on trade-in, have a huge selection, and sell used video games at significant discounts to new. On average, used video game software price points were 13% below the lowest priced retailer of new games and more than 16% lower than the average retail selling price of new games.
GOOD NEWS FOR VIDEO GAME PUBLISHERS: The good news for game publishers is that pricing is holding up very well on new games with no retailer pressuring ASPs. According to our survey, retailers pick their spots and mark down very few games. With a retail mark-up of only 20-23%, retailers appear unwilling to sacrifice profits on video game software...yet.
THE USED VIDEO GAME MARKET IS HUGE: We calculate the size of the used video game market (ELBO and GME) in the U.S. between $630 and $790 million for 2004. We estimate that well over 10% of console software dollar sales at retail come from used video game software (not in NPD). We estimate that over 8% of all video game sales in the U.S. are used games (console, handheld, PC). At some point we think video game publishers like Activision and EA could stick their hand out to share in the profits from used game sales. To date, the importance of the publisher's relationship with specialty retailer outweighs lost sales and profits.

Posted by Bob at 10:03 AM

May 8, 2004

High Prices for Video Games at WM

Geek.com reports results from a survey in this Reuter's aricle comparing prices of new video game console and handheld game titles in different outlets.

For the 30 titles in the survey, which were a mix of older and newer games on console and handheld platforms, Wal-Mart's total price was $1,231.76, nearly 9 percent, or $97.25, more expensive than the overall low-price leader, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN.O: Quote, Profile, Research)

"We haven't had ample opportunity to review this survey, however as a company that brought $12 billion in ... savings to our customers last year alone, we find this hard to believe," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen Burk said. "But given our pledge to everyday low prices, we'll look into this."

CNN Money reports:

More people buy video games at Wal-Mart than any other store in the country, but according to a new Piper Jaffray retail survey, they're paying more than they have to....

"Retailers generally do not break minimum advertised price levels in ... video game software," Gikas wrote.

Slashdot has their usual analysis.

This is the guy who headed the survey.. Note that I have big reservations about the validity of consumer surveys like this. I find it difficult to assess without reading the original study...

Posted by Kevin at 12:26 PM