Wal-Mart in European E-Commerce Deals

In an effort to expand its e-commerce presence away from home, U.S.-based retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced Wednesday that it has partnered with AOL Europe and UK-based comparison shopping site ShopSmart.com.

Under the terms of the deal, Wal-Mart Europe is merging its UK-based comparison-shopping site, Valuemad, with ShopSmart. The retailing giant will retain a 14 percent stake in the combined company after selling an 8.5 stake to AOL Europe, the continent’s largest Internet company. Financial details were not disclosed.

AOL will make ShopSmart the exclusive shopping comparison guide for its UK and German sites, while Wal-Mart will advertise ShopSmart in its 240 ASDA superstores across the United Kingdom.

In addition, Wal-Mart and AOL Europe have forged a four-year marketing agreement that calls for Wal-Mart and ASDA to distribute AOL interactive discs in their stores and offer special AOL online packages. AOL UK will also promote the ASDA chain in its Interests and Lifestyles channels.

Benefits For All

The series of deals and agreements delivers enhanced Internet presence to Wal-Mart Europe’s stores in the UK and Germany, gives AOL Europe a shopping comparison guide that is quickly becoming one of the UK’s most-trafficked Web sites and gives ShopSmart the backing of two very large multinationals and access to millions of new customers. “From ‘bricks’ to ‘clicks,’ this deal brings together three companies passionate about building their businesses through an obsession with the needs of their customers,” said Alan Leighton, Wal-Mart Europe CEO. Ascending Rapidly, Comparatively Launched in 1998, ShopSmart compares prices from over 2,000 online vendors in the UK. The company recently opened similar sites in Sweden and Germany and lays claim to being the second most-trafficked site in the UK after Amazon.com. ShopSmart claims it had 600,000 unique visitors in July and generated nearly $700,000 (US$) in revenues in the first quarter. The company receives fees from participating merchants for referring potential customers to their Web sites. Bold Future Plans ShopSmart is reportedly contemplating going public in the future and views the deal with AOL Europe and Wal-Mart as a way to significantly reduce its customer acquisition costs. The company recently embarked on an expansive offline and online advertising campaign in the UK. It now claims that it is the second most-recognized British Internet company behind ISP Freeserve. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer, with 4,000 stores and over one million employees worldwide. It booked first quarter revenues of $43 billion. AOL Europe boasts a reach of four million households across Europe since its launch in 1995.

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