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    Wal-Mart to Cash Economic Stimulus Checks for Free

    The retailer said it will also dish out 'compelling rollbacks' as consumers crave lower prices.

    As economic stimulus payments begin to turn up in bank accounts and mailboxes, Wal-Mart said yesterday it will cash shoppers' checks for free, with no purchase required.

    The retailer said it is also offering shoppers a new program of rollbacks beginning this week.

    Its moves follow incentives from other grocers who want to attract consumers who are ready to spend their checks from the government.

    "We're looking at this through the eyes of our customers, who need low prices all the time," said John Fleming, e.v.p. and chief merchandising officer, Wal-Mart Stores, U.S.

    Additionally, its Sam's Club units will cash checks for free for members, and will offer its own economic stimulus bonus in the form of a $40 gift of membership on select product purchases May 11 through May 31.

    To coincide with the distribution of economic stimulus checks, Wal-Mart said it will offer "compelling rollbacks" on key grocery and consumable items. Over the coming weeks it will unveil additional rollbacks.

    The company said it will also Wal-Mart will unveil an online advice program to help shoppers stretch the family budget.

    Wal-Mart said recent spending trends show that shoppers are looking for ways to make their money work harder, including:
    -- selecting something different, such as purchasing a little more white meat and a little less red meat;
    -- swapping something out, for example trade a meal in a restaurant for a frozen or boxed meal at home;
    -- sizing up and down, by considering larger pack sizes to save money in categories where they can stock up, or choosing a smaller pack size closer to the next paycheck.

    In other Wal-Mart news, Eduardo Castro-Wright, c.e.o. of the retailer's U.S. division, reportedly told a gathering of analysts at a Lehman Brothers retail conference yesterday that more affluent customers are shopping at Wal-Mart stores during the economic slump.

    According to press reports, Castro-Wright said the company's emphasis on low prices is keeping lower-income customers loyal and attracting more affluent shoppers who usually spend elsewhere.

    Shoppers with a household income of more than $55,000 to $70,000 are categorized by Wal-Mart as more affluent than its core customers. Castro-Wright cited company research that showed that the number of more affluent shoppers increased 0.7 percent in February and was up 2.2 percent in March.

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