By Anne D'Innocenzio, AP Retail Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart, which has ridden low prices to dominate the U.S. retail scene, further stepped up its game in price cutting Wednesday.
The world's largest retailer said it will cut prices each week on thousands of items, from bananas to board games, through the holiday season. The first group of cuts hit Wednesday.
"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 two-day meeting that began Wednesday in Rogers, Ark., a few miles from the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The meeting is being broadcast over the Web.
Wal-Mart, also 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% lower than at leading national supermarkets on the same items. The difference on those items was about 12% a year ago, he said.Wal-Mart CEO and president Mike Duke said the company plans to grow further in the U.S. and abroad and is committed to paring down its expenses by taking still greater advantage of its sheer size and by increasing sales productivity in its stores.
Duke told investors that "there is no retail competitor — here in the United States or anywhere in the world — that can deliver the kind of growth that Wal-Mart can over the next several years."
But the company also reiterated it is now focusing on building smaller and fewer stores each year. It plans to expand its U.S. stores by 14 million square feet for fiscal 2010, which ends Jan. 31.