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story.lead_photo.caption Walmart employee Kenneth White scans items during a Walmart Academy class session at the store in North Bergen, N.J. Starting Thursday, Walmart employees will be able to use mobile devices to process some shoppers’ payments, allowing them to bypass long checkout lines.

Walmart Inc. is staring a new program Thursday that will let customers shopping in the stores' busiest departments pay for their items on the spot and avoid checkout lines.

Called Check Out With Me, the program stations workers equipped with mobile devices and Bluetooth in high-traffic areas such as the garden center or electronics. From there, employees can swipe shoppers' credit cards and give them either a paper or electronic receipt.

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart's U.S. division, said in a media briefing Tuesday that the speedier checkout option works best when shoppers have only a few items, but it's available to all customers. He said the program proved successful during testing this fall in some of Walmart's lawn and garden centers.

The Bentonville retailer also said in a news release that it's adding a digital store map feature to its app to help shoppers find items more quickly. Maps already are available for most stores, and will be available for all stores in early November. Walmart also has installed new signs to help shoppers find their way around stores.

As the Christmas shopping season nears, Walmart is positioning itself to compete with Inc., Target Corp. and other retailing rivals. Aided by recent acquisitions of clothing brands Eloquii and Bare Necessities, Walmart has added thousands of brands online and in stores this year. It also gave its website a makeover with a more modern look and streamlined search capabilities.

Also, the company recently extended free two-day shipping for orders over $35 on millions of products sold on by third-party "marketplace" merchants, in addition to those it sells directly. Walmart simplified the return process for these items, including allowing customers to take marketplace items to its more than 4,700 stores for returns starting in mid-November.

Target said last week that it will offer free two-day shipping on all orders placed between Nov. 1 and Dec. 22. The Minneapolis retailer previously offered it only to holders of its store credit card.

Amazon offers free two-day shipping on many third-party items to members of Amazon Prime, which costs $119 a year.

Business on 10/31/2018

Print Headline: Walmart rolls out spot checkouts; workers to tally items, take payments in high-traffic areas

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