Wednesday, November 14, 2012

(BN) Wal-Mart Starts Food-Testing Subscription Service

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world's largest retailer, started a monthly service that sends boxfuls of sample-sized specialty food items to subscribers as it tries to lure customers who have not traditionally gone to its stores.

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The Goodies Co. service, developed by the company's @WalmartLabs unit, offers five to eight hand-picked taster samples, ranging from healthy and organic to artisan and ethnic foods, for $7 a month, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said in a statement today.

The service is the latest push into e-commerce by Wal-Mart as it seeks to add higher income consumers to its customer base and compete with online retailers. The company has developed its @WalmartLabs unit, based in San Bruno, California, to bring in social media expertise to advance its Web-based business.

The Goodies service is targeting individuals including "yuppies" and "soccer moms" to give customers an opportunity to discover new foods and offer items that may be difficult to find, Shernaz Daver, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said by telephone.

Subscribers can receive loyalty points for reviewing the samples and have the option of buying full-sized versions on the company's website, Daver said.

"They're trying to attract a more affluent customer," David Galper, head of retail and apparel investment banking for KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., said. "This is not the kind of offering one would typically expect from Wal-Mart."

Wal-Mart can also use customer reviews and the volume of full-size orders to guide decisions on purchasing and inventory, he said.

About 3,000 people in the U.S. have tested Goodies since August, receiving monthly treat boxes with themes such as "Flavors around the World" or "Trick-or-Treat Sweets," the company said. Its Thanksgiving theme is "Easy Entertaining," with gourmet foods such as wine biscuits, pumpkin souffle mix, and dark chocolate infused Quinoa bars.

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