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Walmart hopes to make stores livelier

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NEW YORK (AP) — As more shoppers shift online, Walmart hopes to make its stores more fun this holiday season.

The nation's largest retailer will have parties for customers at its stores for the first time, around the themes of toys, entertainment and curated gifts. It's increasing the number of product demonstrations and will expand the role of employees who last year helped find customers the shortest register lines. This year, they'll assist customers in the toys and electronics areas every weekend and be at the online orders pickup stations as Christmas approaches.

The plan for the critical holiday season underscores how retailers are trying to make stores more inviting even as they improve online services. Rival Target now has dedicated staff in areas like clothing, beauty and consumer electronics.

Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, says it has tripled the number of products online to more than 60 million from last year's holiday season and is offering more exclusive merchandise.

However, while retailers like Target and Best Buy are waiving their minimum for free shipping again this holiday season, Walmart is sticking to its $35 threshold for free two-day free shipping on 2 million products.

Associated Press 2017

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