NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart is hoping the same storms that kept shoppers away in the winter, will bring them into stores in the spring.
Starting Friday, Wal-Mart is having a weeklong sale of up to 50 percent on more than 60 outdoor items, including lawn mowers and bags of mulch.
The world's largest retailer said the move, which pits it against home-improvement rivals Home Depot and Lowe's, is aimed at luring shoppers who are looking to restore patios and gardens that were battered by severe winter weather.
Retailers don't typically discount new spring merchandise so quickly and aggressively, opting instead to reduce prices throughout the season. This spring, however, will be more important to many retailers that were hurt by strong winter storms that kept shoppers indoors and forced hundreds of stores to close. Industry watchers say other retailers are likely to follow Wal-Mart and offer their own promotions on home improvement merchandise, which has high profit margins.
"This is trying to get growth," said Craig R. Johnson, president of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. "The early bird catches the worm."
Johnson, from Customer Growth Partners, said Wal-Mart is taking a page from Home Depot, which has been offering a similar sales event for years each spring.
Home Depot Inc. and Lowe's, the nation's two largest home-improvement chains, declined to comment on Wal-Mart's move. But Amanda Manna, a Lowe's spokeswoman, said: "Our expertise in home improvement allows us to serve customers as a partner throughout an entire home improvement project, from inspiration to completion."
In the past, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is based in Bentonville, Ark., typically offered discounts on outdoor items or offered some special buys throughout the season. This sale, which ends next Saturday, marks the first time it has pulled the items together to kick off a spring sale, Wal-Mart said.