Customers can buy nearly 5,000 items — personal computers, furniture, bath towels, even gun-cleaning kits — for home delivery. The orders are fulfilled at area Wal-Mart stores and delivered by the United Parcel Service.
“Connecting our Web site with 4,000 physical stores across the country really gives us a leg up,” said Ravi Jariwala, a spokesman for Wal-Mart.
The initiative comes as the retailing giant faces increasing competition from Internet stores. Amazon.com offers same-day delivery in 10 cities, including the District and Baltimore, for orders placed before 11 a.m. There is a starting fee of $8.99.
At Wal-Mart, orders must be placed by noon. Customers are given four-hour delivery windows between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. when their items will be delivered for a flat fee of $10.
Northern Virginia, which is home to dozens of Wal-Mart stores, was the first test market for the company’s new program.
“We had to make sure that we picked markets where we had a large presence of stores,” Jariwala said. “I don’t know that there was any other reason — it’s not that we liked the motto ‘Virginia Is for Lovers,’ or anything like that.”
Wal-Mart’s share prices have been ticking up in the past year as economic uncertainty globally has led investors to bulk up on shares of discount retailers. The company’s shares closed at $74.14 on Tuesday, a 38 percent increase from one year ago.
In a recent study conducted by Wal-Mart, Jariwala said a majority of respondents said they would consider same-day delivery if it was available.
“That gave us a sense that there is some demand for this,” Jariwala said. “There was a lot of interest for general merchandise like electronics, video games and toys.”
Jariwala would not comment on many of the logistics involved — how a store’s products are rounded up for delivery, for example, or whether there was a threshold for how many deliveries the company could handle on any given day.
“We’re really intent on learning from customers [during] this test run,” he said.
Wal-Mart has been making efforts to link online shopping to its stores in recent years, with free ship-to-store options.
Earlier this year, it began allowing customers to pay for online orders at local Wal-Mart stores using cash or debit cards.