By Stephanie Clifford, News York Times, March 9, 2011
(R)etailers are trying to figure out how to use online sales to spur in-store sales.
Wal-Mart is the latest in this march, and announced Thursday afternoon that it would introduce a program nationwide called “Pick Up Today” that allows customers to submit orders online and pick up their items a few hours later in their local store. The move is not revolutionary — Sears and Nordstrom, for instance, already have similar programs.
But Wal-Mart, as the world’s biggest retailer, tends to set the bar that all competitors must then hurdle, whether that involves sustainability or free shipping.
Retailers say that tying online and in-store inventory together lets them sell more products to more customers. Nordstrom recently combined its inventory so that if the online stockroom is out of a jacket, a store that has it can ship it to the Web customer. Encouraging customers to retrieve items they have ordered online in a store increases visits to the stores, which usually increases sales. Best Buy offers both store pickup and “ship to store,” where items are shipped free to a local store. Ace Hardware , J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart itself are among the others offering “ship to store” programs.
In Wal-Mart’s program, which is expected to be nationwide by June, customers can select from among 40,000 items online. They will receive a text message or e-mail alerting them when the order is ready, which usually takes about four hours.
“Not only do we see it as a nice convenience for customers, but we also saw it as a way to drive incremental traffic to the stores, and incremental sales,” said Steve Nave, senior vice president and general manager of Walmart.com.
Since approximately 75% of the U.S. economy is based on retail consumer sales, it is not difficult to imagine the headlines in many local newspapers when the retail giant announces sales increases of 10-15% as a result of this "ship to store" programs. Theatre and consumer spending are among America's best "tricks" and there is no country in the world that accomplishes either more successfully, if the generation of sales is the measure.
Driving increased store traffic, increased sales, obviously increased profits...all the while contributing to the American addiction to the "consumerism" that fills all the personal black holes that no one wants to confront.
It could be soon, if not already, that this company achieves the rank of the largest, most profitable and most ubiquitous retailer on the planet. And sales and marketing tactics like this will only put more and more junk into homes and basements and garages of people who do not need the stuff and many of whom likely cannot afford it.
And the beat goes on! Ca-ching! Ca-ching! goes the cash register...the wannabe "flower" of America.