Monday, May 14, 2007

Wal-Mart boosting electronics offerings (Reuters)

By Nicole Maestri

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research said on Monday that it would start selling a larger array of electronics, including 32-inch LCD televisions for under $500 and Skype calling cards.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has been pursuing electronics aggressively, expanding its selection of high-end products like flat-panel TVs to lure customers into its stores and then cutting prices to boost sales and gain market share.

The efforts have pressured competitors like Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY.N: Quote, Profile, Research and Circuit City Stores Inc. (CC.N: Quote, Profile, Research. Earlier this year, Circuit City announced plans to close stores and replace 3,400 employees with lower-paid workers.

Wal-Mart said on Monday that its larger selection of electronics would include new home theater systems by Philips and Sony, and a wider assortment higher-definition TV, including more sizes from Samsung (005930.KS: Quote, Profile, Research.

The company also said it would offer Skype calling cards and phones that allow consumers to make calls through the Web-based phone company.

Skype, a unit of online auction leader eBay Inc. (EBAY.O: Quote, Profile, Research, is the leading Internet-based phone-calling company. The companies typically allow consumers to call overseas for free, or at a fraction of conventional prices, on computers, mobile or land-line phones, bypassing steep carrier toll charges.

Wal-Mart said it would offer the products -- including headsets, webcams and handsets designed to work with Skype -- in the Internet and voice communications areas of 1,800 stores.

The retailer said the electronics expansion followed an extensive remodeling of those departments last year, and it expected to completely transition to selling digital televisions by the end of this month.

(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller)

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