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Wal-Mart aims to shake winter with sales push

– Wal-Mart is hoping the same winter storms that kept shoppers away in the winter, will bring them into stores in the spring.

Wal-Mart plans a weeklong sale of up to 50 percent on more than 60 outdoor items, including lawn mowers and bags of mulch.

The world’s largest retailer said the move, which pits it against home-improvement rivals Home Depot and Lowe’s, is aimed at luring shoppers who are looking to restore patios and gardens that were battered by severe winter weather.

Retailers don’t typically discount new spring merchandise so quickly and aggressively, opting instead to slash prices slightly throughout the season. This spring, however, will be more important to many retailers that were hurt by strong winter storms that kept shoppers indoors and forced stores to close hundreds of locations.

Industry watchers say other retailers are likely to follow Wal-Mart and offer their own promotions on home improvement merchandise, which has high profit margins.

“This is trying to get growth,” said Craig R. Johnson, of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. “The early bird catches the worm.”

Johnson said Wal-Mart is taking a page from Home Depot, which has been offering a similar sales event for years each spring.

Home Depot and Lowe’s are the nation’s two largest home-improvement chains. Home Depot declined questions about Wal-Mart’s sale.

But Amanda Manna, a spokeswoman at Lowe’s, said: “Our expertise in home improvement allows us to serve customers as a partner throughout an entire home improvement project, from inspiration to completion.”

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