December 2, 2020

By Melissa Fares

(Reuters) – Walmart Inc said on Wednesday it would lift the $35 minimum order value that subscribers of its loyalty service had to meet for next-day or two-day shipping, as the retailer gears up for a holiday season dominated by online shopping.

The change, starting Friday, only applies to items on the retailer’s website such as toys, appliances and clothing, the company said, adding that groceries, which are delivered from stores, will still have the $35 minimum.

Walmart Plus, touted as a rival to Amazon.com Inc’s Prime subscription service, was launched just over two months ago aiming to attract new customers and make existing ones more loyal as consumers consolidate their shopping to just a few retailers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walmart Plus costs $98 a year or $12.95 a month.

With coronavirus infections spiking across the United States, expectations have grown that Americans will do a bigger chunk of their holiday shopping from their living rooms and home offices instead of going out to stores.

“We just thought that now, in advance of the holidays, given where we are with the state of the pandemic, now is the absolute right time to have free shipping with no minimum,” Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart, told Reuters.

The number of online-only shoppers jumped 44% during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the United States, the National Retail Federation said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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