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Walmart and other big retailers hope that, by turning stores into shipping hubs for online orders, they can re-create Amazon's fulfillment network with the assets they already have.
"Some people talk about Amazon with their 100 distribution centers, God bless them. We have 2,600 distribution centers," said Gap CEO Glenn Murphy, referring to the apparel retailer's network of Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy stores.
Gap launched ship-from-store in 2012. The move has helped it deliver online orders faster, while avoiding situations where shoppers cannot find the right size or color of a particular garment.
Another big benefit: When stores have a lot of unsold products, online orders can be routed to locations with the most inventory. That helps limit costly discounts on unsold merchandise.
Walmart and Best Buy also route online orders to stores that have the most inventory of a particular item.
Nordstrom started shipping online orders from its high-end department stores in 2009. It has helped the company maintain high levels of full-priced sales and get new fashions into stores quicker.
"There's profit-margin enhancement to fulfill an online order in a store that is about to take a markdown on that item," said Wells Fargo's Nemer. "It sounds very promising."
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