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VOL. 131 | NO. 110 | Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wal-Mart Revives Smiley Face Image for Price Marketing

ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, AP Retail Writer

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Wal-Mart is reviving its yellow smiley image to be the face of its low-price marketing.

The nation's largest retailer is emphasizing customer service and aiming to reinforce a price leadership claim that's been chipped away at by increased competition from online leader Amazon.com and other rivals. The smiley, dormant for ten years, has returned to some digital advertising and will be in TV ads and some store signs starting next week. From there it's likely to expand.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, announced the move Wednesday at a gathering of about of 2,600 mostly hourly U.S. workers that's tied to this week's annual shareholders meeting. The rally featured speeches from top executives about how to serve customers, including the importance of putting on a happy face.

"Put that smile on. People notice that," said "Family Feud" host Steve Harvey, who played the game with a few executives along with a cashier and driver. Workers also received "smiley" buttons to wear.

Nearly 70 percent of Wal-Mart's customers still associate the smiley with saving at the stores, even though it has been largely absent for a decade, Chief Marketing Officer Tony Roger said on Wal-Mart's blog.

The discounter initially gave out "Smiley" stickers to store shoppers in 1990, and the image later became the face of what the company calls "rollbacks" – discounts for a set period on key items. The face was then incorporated into characters like Zorro and Robin Hood. But it virtually disappeared in 2006 as the company shifted its marketing focus.

It will be the face of Wal-Mart's low-price marketing again as the company tries to increase sales at its namesake U.S. business. Wal-Mart's U.S. discount division just reported its seventh straight gain for a key measure as its efforts on basics like cleaning up its stores and increasing customer service are helping business.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 81 277 20,909
MORTGAGES 85 329 24,074
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 9 48 3,095
BUILDING PERMITS 219 672 43,265
BANKRUPTCIES 64 238 13,418
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 56 6,678
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 12 94 7,883
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 59 4,702