In a move that could spark a retail price war and weigh on the retail sector's earnings, Wal-Mart on Wednesday announced a wide range of price cuts on thousands of items, from bananas to board games, through the holiday season.
"We will not be beaten on price," said Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and leader of its U.S. business.
Castro-Wright was addressing analysts at a meeting in Rogers, Ark., a few miles from the company's headquarters in Bentonville.
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Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. grocery seller and overall retailer, said it hopes shoppers will see a widening gap between prices at its stores and those of its rivals.
John Fleming, its chief merchandising officer in the U.S., told investors that Wal-Mart's audits show its prices for frequently purchased grocery items were recently at least 14 percent lower than at leading national supermarkets on the same items. The difference on those items was about 12 percent a year ago, he said.
The company also reiterated it is focusing on building smaller and fewer stores each year.
The cuts start this week with bananas selling for 39 cents per pound, rolls of ground beef for $1.25 per pound, and select board games for $15.
Wal-Mart started a price war on books last week, announcing that its Web site would charge $10, with free shipping, for upcoming hardcover releases, a 60 percent discount off the suggested price.