- Wal-Mart continues to reduce its use of price-matching offers—promises to beat the advertised prices of other retailers—in its stores, quietly discontinuing the practice in another 300 of its U.S. stores after earlier pulling the offer in 500 stores.
- Wal-Mart has not identified which stores or regions are impacted by the move: A Wal-Mart spokesperson told Consumerist that the program change is only being announced inside the stores affected, with blue signs at registers alerting shoppers.
- Wal-Mart is further reducing its own prices on many products long-term to make up for the policy change, the spokesperson added.
If Wal-Mart is discontinuing a well-publicized price-matching practice just to lower its prices further on some products, it has chosen to do so in a very odd and not very shopper-friendly way. If it felt like no one was paying much attention to its price-matching offers, and wanted to see if anyone would miss them, well, it has an answer, with NBC News noting how customers quickly lodged social media complaints.
Kenneth Perkins, an equity analyst at Morningstar, told NBC News that price-matching offers are intended to promote customer loyalty and the perception of price competitiveness, but that Wal-Mart is causing confusion by phasing out the program with little fanfare, and not publicizing which stores no longer feature price-matching and which still do.
It's fair to wonder if price-matching has been too costly for Wal-Mart to support, and has failed to produce the extra business and improved customer loyalty that the retailer was hoping for. Still, for Wal-Mart, low pricing traditionally has been the single largest component of its brand identity. It says so right under the store logo: "Save money. Live better."
Facing more market pressure on both store sales and the e-commerce front, Wal-Mart has been looking to alter that identity, making efforts to cater to bigger spenders, which could fundamentally change its customer base if it works out.
That's what Wal-Mart's $3 billion deal to acquire Jet is largely about. That deal is an overt way of trying to affect this change. Pulling longstanding offers to match competitors prices from its store may be a more subtle way of trying to pull away from the old identity, But, it might be too subtle. Forging a new identity takes time, and while Wal-Mart is waiting for its new customer base to catch on, it shouldn't completely alienate its traditional customer base just yet.