Wal-Mart Starts "Aggressive" Back-to-School Discount Plan

NEW YORK - Wal-Mart announced today it is cutting prices on more than 16,000 items in a bid to turn around sales for the critical back-to-school season.

The price cuts, which range from ten percent to 50 percent, will be backed by a new ad campaign on how to save money as gas prices remain high and kids head back to school.  A spokeswoman for the Bentonville-based company says the cuts are deeper and involve even more items than in the year-ago period and top the 11,000 items discounted before last year's holiday season kicked off.

Wal-Mart has been playing up its low prices since late last year after getting hurt by a focus on trendy merchandise in an effort to get affluent customers to buy more than just groceries.  While the upscale strategy worked in electronics, it failed in home furnishings and apparel, resulting in sluggish sales since last fall.

So far this fiscal year, Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has averaged a same-store sales plan of a meager one percent, compared to rival Target's 4.1 percent increase.

Same-store sales are sales at stores open at least a year and are considered a key indicator of a retailer's health.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)