Walmart was behind the pack when finally deciding to launch its Walmart+ subscription membership program in June 2021. Amazon’s Prime subscription was launched in early 2005 growing to 200 million members as of October 2021.
Walmart has not disclosed its membership numbers, but Deutsche Bank estimated in September 2021 the retail giant had amassed about 32 million members.
The Bentonville-based retailer has made several program changes. Walmart has announced a special summer sales event for June 2-3 for Walmart+ members only, which is similar to the Amazon Prime Day sale first held in July 2015.
Also, Walmart quietly moved last month to discontinue its pharmacy discount rolled out last year. While the retailer did not put out a press release it notified subscribers they would no longer receive prescriptions free of charge for a large number of commonly prescribed drugs for chronic ailments like blood pressure and cholesterol maintenance. In the email obtained by Talk Business & Politics, Walmart said the “Rx for less” perk would end on May 31.
“We are sincerely sorry for any inconvenience, and as a result will be extending your monthly membership by 2 months for free,” Walmart noted in the email.
This came on the heels of Walmart expanding the fuel discount to include around 12,000 U.S. Exxon and Mobil stations. Walmart continues to give a 5 and 10 cent per gallon discount at its own stations as those run by subsidiary Sam’s Club and partner Murphy USA.
Like the Amazon Prime membership, free expedited delivery is a benefit with Walmart+, but the brick and mortar retail titan does not offer anything comparable to Prime Video. Walmart did recently offer its members a six-month free membership to access Spotify for music streaming.
Disappointing gross margin misses from Walmart, Target and Amazon this quarter could result in more changes to membership plans. Amazon recently raised the price of its Prime membership to $139 per year. Amazon also said those receiving government assistance in the SNAP program would pay $6.99 and it also gives students a discounted price of $7.49 or $69 per year. Walmart charges $98 per year, or $12.99 per month, for its Walmart+ subscription after a 30-day free trial.
“Ninety-one percent of our customers are aware of the increased prices at the pump and nearly half of those told us they are changing behaviors because of them,” said Chris Cracchiolo, general manager of Walmart+. “More access to a bigger discount will make a difference for our customers. We want Walmart+ to help our customers save time and money, not only when they’re shopping with us, but throughout their day. We’re excited to continue to find new ways to deliver for them.”