By Chris Morris
May 14, 2019

After coyly hinting about a major shift in its shipping policies, Walmart has filed the latest salvo in the retail wars, announcing free one-day shipping starting this week.

The service will initially be available only in a select number of areas (Phoenix and Las Vegas for now and Southern California in the coming days), but the company says it will offer the service to roughly 75% of the country by the end of the year. Unlike Amazon, which limits free one-day delivery to Amazon Prime members, the Walmart offer will be available to anyone, without the need for a paid membership.

“Contrary to what you might think, it will cost us less – not more – to deliver orders the next day,” said Marc Lore, President and CEO, Walmart eCommerce U.S. in a statement. “That’s because eligible items come from a single fulfillment center located closest to the customer. This means the order ships in one box, or as few as possible, and it travels a shorter distance via inexpensive ground shipping.”

Walmart has been planning free next day shipping for a while. Soon after Amazon announced plans to invest $800 million to ensure Prime members got their orders the following day, the retailer issued a tweet saying “One-day free shipping…without a membership fee. Now THAT would be groundbreaking,” then refused to comment beyond that.

Fast and free shipping has become an especially ferocious battleground for retailers as they fight for customer loyalty. Target already offers free one-day shipping, but only to members of its REDcard loyalty program, which does not carry an annual fee.

Walmart says some 220,000 items, ranging from diapers to housewares to electronics, will be available for next day shipping. It did not, however, specify whether a minimum order amount would be required to qualify for the program.

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