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Wal-Mart Sees Back to School Sales Coming Late

Wal-Mart has typically tried to drag the start of holidays forward, offering promotions for the year-end season in early autumn last year, for example, but, this annum, it's expecting back to school's impact to come late.

Not that it hasn't tried to push sales earlier into the season. Already, the retailer has run its $298 laptop promotion, and Wal-Mart spokesperson Melissa O'Brien told Bnet that more, similar deals will emerge as back to school progresses.

Yet, in reporting softer comparable store sales for the second quarter, Wal-Mart vice chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright suggested trends are such that back to school impact lost in that period might tell during the third.

In a conference call last week Castro-Wright said:

Based on the industry reports on back-to-school, we believe we are gaining significant share of this sizable business. Although it is a tough sales environment, we are pleased with the initial response to our back-to-school and back-to-college offerings. Now, like it has been the case for several seasons, customers are shopping much closer to the event. We are focused on delivering on our 'save money' promise on top brands in school supplies, electronics, home and, in apparel, we have a very strong program in place, supported by the launch of the Miley Cyrus/Max Azria line. The coordinated color program for back-to-college has been received very positively. Back-to-college comp sales are running in the mid double-digits ahead of last year.
In an interesting contrast, early back to school sales were quite good in the United Kingdom, said Doug McMillan, CEO of Wal-Mart International.

The Cyrus/Azria line, which features rock influenced tops, graphic tees, pants, shoes and accessories was rolled out in such a way as to hit stride in August for the back to school season. Everything is priced under $20, which fits in with how Mike Duke, Wal-Mart's CEO, sees today's back to school consumer. In the conference call, he noted:

There's a 'new normal' now where people are saving more, consuming less, and being more frugal and thoughtful in their purchases. Customers are shopping smarter. They want quality products that are cost-effective, sustainable and provide real value.
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