Walmart is doing whatever it can to speed shoppers through its stores this holiday season.
The retailer said Tuesday it will be rolling out a "check out with me" option at all of its stores by Black Friday. Starting at some locations as soon as this Thursday, shoppers will find Walmart employees scattered throughout aisles with handheld devices that allow them to scan bulky items like flat-screen TVs and heavy furniture to allow customers to pay on the spot and have a receipt emailed to them.
The devices aren't intended to check out whole baskets full of items, but it will be capable of processing everything from groceries to apparel, Walmart said.
In addition, Walmart said its mobile app will include store maps to help shoppers find items faster this holiday season.
"You've seen us make significant improvements to our stores and website," Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., said on a call with members of the media. "All that has been building up to what we think will be the best holiday yet."
Walmart has made a slew of investments to beef up its website this year, including adding new brands like those sold by Lord & Taylor and Moosejaw. The company said this holiday season it will have its "broadest assortment ever" of merchandise for sale in stores and online. Without Toys R Us on the scene, it's planning to have 30 percent more new toys for sale in stores, and 40 percent more available on Walmart.com.
Still, Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen said Walmart's assortment continues to lag that of Amazon. In a research note Sunday, he said Walmart carries a little more than half of the top 1 million best-selling items on Amazon. Chen said Walmart is "missing many important brands and breadth and depth" in certain categories.
Though Walmart still has investments to make, like adding more premium brands that can sell alongside Lord & Taylor's dresses, Chen said he views the company "as the closest traditional retail competitor to Amazon given its massive assortment, strong digital growth, and increasing scale."
Rivals like Target aren't coming up short with their own tactics to sell more toys and win shoppers' dollars this holiday season.
Target in particular announced last week it will offer free, two-day shipping with no minimum purchase required, starting this week and running through Dec. 22. Walmart said this week it has no plans to match that deal and will stick to offering free, two-day shipping for orders over $35. Walmart recently said it will be expanding its perk to more items sold by third parties on its marketplace.
"Speed will continue to be an important catalyst for growth as we believe customers will count on delivery times moving toward same-day and one-hour," Chen said.