Wal-Mart Preps Rival to Amazon Prime

Wal-Mart Stores is preparing to launch a subscription fast-shipping service similar to Amazon Prime to boost its online business and take on Amazon.com, according to people involved with or briefed about the product.

Codenamed “Tahoe,” the service follows a painful multi-year software overhaul for the Wal-Mart’s e-commerce business and recent executive departures in Silicon Valley, the seat of its tech efforts. “Tahoe” itself has been delayed by technical and other issues. It was supposed to launch last year before the holidays, but the company has moved the timetable several times, most recently to later this spring or early summer.

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Another wrinkle: Wal-Mart in the past said that half of its e-commerce sales were of items that shoppers picked up at physical retail stores, known as “click and collect.” So an apples-to-apples comparison with Amazon would find that the gross merchandise value of Wal-Mart’s e-commerce business is probably one-twentieth the size of its main rival. Wal-Mart’s main e-commerce focus is the U.S., followed by the U.K., Brazil and China, where the company operates joint venture.

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The service will cost less than Amazon Prime’s $99 a year. But Prime includes a wide array of other features, including free video streaming, that Wal-Mart won’t be able to match, at least initially, although executives have considered adding other features.