The company built its business on offering the lowest prices on staples such as milk, bread and laundry detergent. But Wal-Mart's "every day low price" model is under attack from online king Amazon and other competitors that sometimes offer items cheaper. On top of that, the retailer's primarily lower-income customers continue to cut back on spending during the economic recovery.
As a result, Wal-Mart's U.S. discount division recorded its fourth consecutive quarter of declines in revenue at stores opened at least a year, a critical yardstick for measuring a retailer's health. The discounter also has seen a decline in the number of shoppers going to its stores.
Wal-Mart has had a price matching strategy for several years. In 2011, it simplified the policy by making sure workers have the advertised prices of competitors on hand at the register, eliminating the need for shoppers to bring in an ad from a rival store.
Wal-Mart said the idea for Savings Catcher was born last year during a focus group. The idea instantly resonated with the group, the retailer said, and by last summer, Wal-Mart was testing it in four markets on an invitation-only basis. In late February, the company began rolling it out to the seven markets that also include Charlotte, N.C., Huntsville, Ala., Minneapolis, and Lexington, Ky.
Here's how the tool works: A customer has to set up an account on Wal-Mart.com, then logs onto the Savings Catcher page on www.walmart.com/ and type in the number on their receipt. Shoppers need to register the number within seven days of purchase. Savings Catcher compares prices of every item on the receipt to a database of advertised prices of competitors. The database is provided by an undisclosed third party that analyzes retail ads.