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Walmart launching Walmart Plus to compete with Amazon Prime

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Walmart is launching a new membership service that it hopes can compete with Amazon Prime.

Called Walmart Plus, it will cost $98 a year, or $12.95 a month, and give members unlimited same-day delivery from more than half of its 4,700 stores, a fuel discount at certain gas stations and the ability to check out at Walmart stores without having to wait at a register.

Walmart's chief customer officer Janey Whiteside called its new membership "the ultimate life hack" for customers. The program will expand its perks and offerings over time, the company added in a press release Tuesday. 

Walmart has a long way to go to catch up with Amazon Prime. Launched in 2005, Prime has more than 150 million members who pay $119 a year, or $12.99 a month, for faster shipping and other perks, such as discounts at Amazon's Whole Foods supermarkets and access to its video streaming site.

Walmart Plus was originally expected to launch in April, but its rollout has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Recode. Walmart in July confirmed to CBS News that a rival service was in the works.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said Walmart Plus will launch September 15.

Walmart's online sales are growing rapidly, especially during the pandemic, when many shoppers have deemed ordering groceries online and picking them up at the store to be safer than selecting items in-store. But the world's largest retailer still lags behind Amazon in online sales. Walmart is expected to take 6% of all online sales in the U.S. this year, compared to Amazon's 38%, according to market research firm eMarketer.

Last week, Walmart emerged as a possible suitor, in collaboration with tech company Microsoft, for the U.S. business of TikTok, the fast-growing video app with more than 100 million users. Analysts have said that the potential joint acquisition with Microsoft could be a way for Walmart to grow its online shopping business and connect with millions of young shoppers.

Walmart Plus members will have to spend at least $35 online to qualify for free shipping. Shipping speeds vary, but delivery could be as quick as same-day for groceries, toys and household items such as toilet paper and soap.

Members will also get a discount of up to 5 cents a gallon at Murphy gas stations or at the 2,000 Walmart locations that have gas pumps. The company said it's working to add more gas-station chains to its list.

At its stores, members can unlock an app to scan items as they shop and pay without having to stop at a register. 

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