Walmart U.S. layaway sales strong before holiday season

By Jessica WohlReuters

Wal-Mart Stores Inc has lined up $400 million in U.S. layaway sales in less than a month, half of the amount shoppers put on hold for all of the 2011 holiday season, as the world's largest retailer makes a concerted push to entice shoppers before the typical start of the holiday season.

Shares of Wal-Mart jumped to an all-time high of $76.38 early on Wednesday and were up 2.7 percent at $76.14 in midmorning as the company held its annual meeting with analysts and investors, which was also broadcast over the Internet.

Continue Reading Below

Walmart U.S. is preparing for a strong holiday season, ordering twice as many tablets and Apple Inc iPads as last year, said Duncan Mac Naughton, the chief merchandising and marketing officer at Walmart U.S.

The company has seen roughly $400 million in layaway orders already, after starting the process in mid-September, a month earlier than it did when it brought the service back in 2011. With layaway, shoppers buying certain items can put them on hold and pay for them over time.

Wal-Mart is gaining market share nearly everywhere it runs stores and still sees its international business as a growth engine despite its decision to slow down store openings in some key countries, said Chief Executive Mike Duke.

Duke also said he believes the company is "playing to win in a very real way now" in e-commerce. He said he is pleased with Wal-Mart's progress in online search and other areas.

Wal-Mart still plans to open more stores around the world, but as it said earlier this year, it will slow down store openings in Brazil, China and Mexico. In Brazil and China, Wal-Mart has said it wants to work on making improvements in its hundreds of stores. Meanwhile, the store approval process in Mexico, where its local affiliate has more than 2,000 locations, has slowed and become more complex in the wake of allegations that the company had bribed government officials to speed up approvals.

(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Matthew Lewis)