Today in Wal-Mart: Ad Wars, Alternative Stores and Assault Weapons

Lots happening on the Wal-Mart Stores beat this week, so let's just take a quick look at what the largest retailer's been up to lately, shall we?

Defending Its Holiday Advertising

Wal-Mart is defending its aggressive holiday price-matching against competitors making formal complaints to half a dozen state attorneys general. Among the aggrieved: Toys R Us and Best Buy, which we noted among the retailers who were desperately trying to strategize against the retail giant's deep discounts during the holidays.

According to Reuters, Wal-Mart rivals charge that the ad campaign, which claims Wal-Mart offers better prices on some products, used inaccurate information, made misleading comparisons or promoted products it didn't have in ample supply.

In its complaint, Best Buy cited Wal-Mart's deal on iPhone 5s. Best Buy had started with its own $50-off offer, offering the low-end iPhone 5 at $149.99. But Wal-Mart followed with its own discount, taking the price to $127.

Best Buy charges that Wal-Mart offered the iPhone discount without ample supply of the phone. And because of it Best Buy's price-matching guarantee, it ended up offering the device at an even larger discount than it had originally planned -- ultimately amounting to a $65,000 loss for the iPhone 5.

A Wal-Mart Stores spokesman defended the campaign:

"We know competitors don't like it when we tell customers to compare prices and see for themselves," Wal-Mart spokesperson Steven Restivo told the Wall Street Journal. "We are confident on the legal, ethical and methodological standards associated with our price comparison advertisements," he added.

Brainstorming New Store Formats Overseas

Wal-Mart now has a new executive position to oversee the new store formats its developing for international markets. According to Bloomberg, Lev Khasis has been named president and chief executive officer of new formats for Wal-Mart International:

Wal-Mart has been experimenting with different types of stores, including bodega-style locations that have proved popular with shoppers in Mexico. The company has used the Mexican Bodega Aurrera stores as the inspiration for small- format locations in the U.S. and Latin America.

“Lev has a track record of developing innovative formats, and he will now focus on developing new concepts that can be deployed across our markets to provide future growth,” Gardner said.

Ignoring a Campaign to Pull Assault Weapson From Its Shelves 

U.S. News & World Report notes in its Washington Whispers column that

Some 120,000 people have signed on to a national campaign to get assault weapons off Wal-Mart's shelves on the heels of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 students and teachers dead.

The campaign was launched by consumer watchdog SumOfUs.org on its web site and by the progressive Courage Campaign on Signon.org.

As we reported, Wal-Mart had already pulled the AR-15 assault rifle from its shelves in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. As for this bit of consumer activism, Wal-Mart didn't offer comment to U.S. News.

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