By Jessica Wohl and Alistair Barr
SAN BRUNO, Calif., March 26 (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc will test the use of lockers in its stores to hold goods ordered online until shoppers pick them up, Neil Ashe, chief executive of its e-commerce unit, said on Tuesday.
The test, starting this summer, is one of many steps the retailer is taking to link its growing e-commerce business with its thousands of stores around the world, Ashe told a group of reporters at the company's e-commerce media day in San Bruno, California.
Amazon.com Inc, which has no stores, is installing lockers in brick-and-mortar stores like Staples Inc to help customers store and pick up online orders securely.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is trying to catch up with Amazon, the biggest online retailer. Wal-Mart hopes its network of physical stores, which number about 4,000 in the United States, will give it an edge as consumers increasingly use smart phones while they shop.
Wal-Mart has been testing the shipping of online orders from a small number of its physical stores for about two years. In 2013, the company plans to expand this program to about 50 stores.
This is an effort to compete with Amazon's successful Prime subscription service, which provides free two-day shipping in the United States for $79 a year.
Using stores as fulfillment centers that are closer to customers allows Wal-Mart to offer same-day delivery and next-day delivery of online orders "at very low cost," said Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com.
"Is it really efficient to use our stores. We've been picking and putting items in boxes for years," he added. "Ship from store is no different. We are picking items from the shelves and putting them in a box."
Two-thirds of the U.S. population live within five miles of a Wal-Mart store.
Wal-Mart is also competing against Amazon by increasing the number of products it has available for sale on its website.
Product assortment on Walmart.com grew 35 percent to 40 percent to 2 million items in 2012 and the company plans to double that this year, Kelly Thompson, a Wal-Mart merchandising executive said.
Wal-Mart, which hosted a small group of reporters at its e-commerce headquarters south of San Francisco, faced some criticism in social media as part of the event.
The retailer asked reporters who were tweeting comments on Tuesday to use the hashtag #WMTinnovate. Along with tweets from the reporters, #WMTinnovate tweets were being sent from groups and individuals speaking out against the retailer.
For example, the union-backed group Making Change at Walmart posted on Twitter: "@WalmartNewsroom Why don't you start by empowering the women in your stores with equal pay for equal work? #equality #wmtinnovate."
Earlier on HuffPost:
Barbie's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Barbies-Friend-Midge-Pregnant-Tummy/dp/B0006M1ANI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355852020&sr=8-1&keywords=pregnant+barbie">pregnant friend Midge</a> was pulled from Walmart shelves <a href="http://blogs.static.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/34728.html">after customers complained</a>. This item is still banned from Walmart stores.
<a href="http://blogs.static.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/34728.html">Walmart banned</a> Prince's 1988 album <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Lovesexy-Explicit/dp/B002C7GBQG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1355852260&sr=8-2&keywords=lovesexy">Lovesexy</a> because of the album's cover. This CD is currently not sold in Walmart stores.
The Morning After Pill
Walmart <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/12-goods-that-make-walmarts-blacklist-2010-10?op=1">refused to sell the morning-after pill</a> between the years 1999 and 2006, until <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/03/health/main1369355.shtml">a lawsuit </a>forced them to sell the drug, and it is sold in Walmart stores today.
America: The Book
Walmart said <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Daily-Show-Stewart-Presents-America/dp/B0047PBRJW/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355854859&sr=1-11&keywords=jon+stewart+america">The Daily Show's book </a>was banned because of its photoshopped naked<a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2004-10-19-stewart-book_x.htm"> pictures of Supreme Court Justices</a>. The book is currently not sold in Walmart stores.
Al Snow Action Figure
<a href="http://www.amazon.com/WWE-Classic-Superstar-Collector-Series/dp/B0014P16HG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1355855045&sr=8-2&keywords=al+snow">This action figure</a> was banned after two professors at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University complained that the mannequin head<a href="http://blogs.static.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/34728.html"> the character and action figure carry</a> around promotes violence against women. This item is not currently sold at Walmart.
All of Marilyn Manson's music and DVDs are <a href="http://xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/news-bannedfromwalmart/11/">banned from Walmart</a>. Marilyn Manson's music is still banned from Walmart stores today.
Racy Men's Magazines
Walmart does not carry what it calls "lad mags" or <a href="http://xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/news-bannedfromwalmart/11/">racy men's magazines</a> like FHM, Maxim, and Stuff. This ban is still in effect today.
Sheryl Crow's Debut Album
Walmart banned <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Sheryl-Crow/dp/B000002G62/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1355858011&sr=8-8&keywords=sheryl+crow">this album</a> because one song on the CD <a href="http://www.eonline.com/news/33553/wal-mart-bans-sheryl-crow-s-next-album">contained the following lyrics</a>: "Watch out sister/Watch out brother/Watch our children as they kill each other/with a gun they bought at the Walmart discount stores." This CD is not currently sold in Walmart stores.
Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War
Walmart <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/24069/the_wal-mart_thought_police">refuses to carry</a> this <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Uncovered-Whole-Truth-About-Iraq/dp/B0001IXT36/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355858320&sr=8-1&keywords=uncovered+whole+truth+iraq">documentary</a> about the Iraq War in its stores. However, the DVD is currently available for purchase on Walmart's website.
George Carlin's Book
Walmart deemed <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Bring-Chops-George-Carlin/dp/B004SUZ72E/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355858439&sr=1-3&keywords=george+carlin+jesus">this book </a>to be<a href="http://money.cnn.com/2004/10/28/news/newsmakers/walmart_carlin/"> too provocative to sell</a>. However, the book is currently available for purchase on Walmart's website.
Goo Goo Dolls Album
<a href="http://www.amazon.com/A-Boy-Named-Goo-Dolls/dp/B000002MUE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355858670&sr=8-1&keywords=a+boy+names+goo">This album</a> was banned <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/24069/the_wal-mart_thought_police">because of its cover art</a>. This CD is not currently for sale at Walmart.
Green Day's Album
This <a href="http://www.amazon.com/21st-Century-Breakdown-Green-Day/dp/B001SAQVDQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355862288&sr=8-1&keywords=21st+century+breakdown">Green Day album</a> was banned because the band<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/21/green-day-vs-walmart_n_206225.html"> refused to edit their lyrics</a>. The CD is still not available for sale at Walmart.