Wal-Mart eyes Best Buy in PC price war

July 23, 2009 at 3:16 PM
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BENTONVILLE, Ark., July 23 (UPI) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is targeting Best Buy Co. and other U.S. electronics retailers by selling beefy laptops for less than the price of a pint-size netbook.

The discount retailer renovated personal computer displays in 1,200 of its 3,600 U.S. stores to make them more like Best Buy, USA Today reports.

Wal-Mart is also refurbishing other stores, broadening its product selection and doing a series of rock bottom pricing promotions starting Sunday, the Bentonville, Ark., firm says.

For instance, it will sell a Hewlett-Packard Co. laptop running Windows Vista with 3 gigabytes of memory and a 160-gigabyte hard drive for $298. Or an Acer Inc. Vista OS laptop with an eight-hour battery, 3 gigabytes of memory and a 320-gigabyte hard drive for $548.

Wal-Mart, which has prospered as the recession increased consumers' price sensitivity, sees slumping sales at electronics and office-supply chains as a ripe opportunity, senior entertainment Vice President Gary Severson says.

"We believe we can move the needle for us as a laptop destination," he tells the newspaper.

A challenge for the retailer is to attract more than finicky bargain hunters, USA Today says.

A recent Interactive Data Corp. survey of 1,000 consumers shows PC buyers much prefer shopping at computer and electronics stores or buying directly from the PC manufacturer.

Knowledgeable sales staffs and follow-up customer service are also major considerations, the survey found.

Even Best Buy, the leading U.S. electronics retailer, has struggled to create a satisfactory in-store PC shopping experience, NPD Group Inc. analyst Stephen Baker tells the newspaper.

"Wal-Mart is a big supermarket for everything," says IDC tech industry researcher David Daoud says. "I'm skeptical that it is going to be able to sustain this over time, because you need a totally different infrastructure."

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