What is Walmart Rollback?

Rollback is the unique term used by Walmart to let customers know that a price has been temporarily lowered on a specific item. It is used in the brick and mortar stores, online, and in their app. This retail sales giant continues to be dedicated to its oldest slogan, Everyday Low Price, and the recent slogan Always Low Prices Always, by demonstrating that themed sales are not necessary to bring customers into their store.

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What You Need to Know

Walmart Rollback is a temporary price reduction on an item, usually triggered by items that were overstocked or products that are traditionally known as impulse purchases. The lower price usually lasts around 3 months, but it can be shorter or longer.

Perishable items are also common rollbacks because they need to be sold before the expiration date hits.

Walmart Rollback is not a sale and has many differences from themed promotions at other retailers.

What is Walmart Rollback?

Walmart continues to grow despite it never offering specific promotions to its customers.

There are few stores as successful as this retail giant that never offer a themed sale, but with 265 million weekly visitors to their 11,501 stores worldwide, they obviously don’t need to change their sales strategy. [source]

The majority of retailers have a list of sales strategies to attract people to come into their stores such as weekly or limited-time specials, BOGO (buy one get one free), or two-for’s (buy two pay for one).

Walmart, which opened as a single store in 1962, offers a different strategy that has proven to be very successful.

It is unique to the retail chain and works in a similar way to the promotions other retailers offer, but it is not a sale and it is not even the same as a sale.

They call it a rollback.

Keep reading to learn the details behind this distinct marketing strategy, how it works, and why the Walmart Rollback method continues to work so well for them.

This video takes you back to a Walmart Rollback commercial from 1998:

What does Walmart Rollback mean?

Walmart’s version of a temporary discount is its rollback feature, which is a temporary price reduction on an item.

A Walmart Rollback is a negotiated agreement between the supplier and Walmart that lowers the price between 3 and 10 weeks, with the most common length of time being 90 days (three months.)

How does a Walmart Rollback work?

In most cases Walmart rollback items are offered at a loss or breakeven in order to entice customers into the store, banking on the premise they will buy additional products to make the loss worth it.

Once the rollback price timeline is up, the lower price on the item reverts back to the prior price (before it was lowered.)

If you see a sign by an item that states ‘Was/Now’ you know it is a rollback item and the current price is temporary.

What is the purpose of Walmart Rollback?

From Day 1 the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, had the vision of selling more for less. This was the beginning of their slogan, Everyday Low Price, and this pricing strategy has carried forward to today.

With a slogan like Everyday Low Price, the company is conveying to the world that sales, promotions, and other attention-getters are not necessary to save money and spend less.

They have the goal of offering everyday low prices as their standard pricing without having to lower prices via a sale to offer a good deal.

A Rollback is not considered a sale by Walmart.

It is simply a temporary, lower price on a specific item.

This video takes you back in time to a Walmart Rollback commercial featuring Robinhood from 2003:

Aren’t Walmart Rollbacks the same as a sale?

In short, the answer is no, Walmart Rollbacks are not like a sale at all.

There is one thing an item on sale at another retailer and rollback prices have in common, which is that there is a temporary price drop on an item that tends to be a good deal.

The following details distinguish the difference between a rollback and a typical sale:

  • With a Walmart Rollback, there is no marketing theme like you see in a department store or grocery store, such as advertising a Back-to-School sale, Memorial Day sale, etc.
  • Walmart stores don’t advertise rollback prices as a sale or even as items on sale, although they do share the previous price compared to the current price
  • In other stores, sale items are typically by department or similar items, (for example, women’s jeans are discounted 25%) but with a Walmart price rollback, the items are random throughout the store
  • The Walmart rollbacks are specific to one item, not a group of items when the lower price will end, and it is not shared with consumers like a traditional ‘end of sale’ date

More ways Walmart Rollbacks are different from typical sales

Price vs. Percentage

The majority of retail sales offers are based on deducting a specific percentage off of the base price of an item. For example, Nike children’s shoes are 10% off, or all men’s coats are discounted 40%.

In a Walmart store, rolled back items are reduced by a dollar amount, never a percentage. In other words, the price drop is a specified amount, such as $1.50 or $2.00.

In addition, Walmart shows the rollback price along with the original higher price on the ‘Was/Now’ sign located by the item.

Item specific

When a retailer announces a temporary sale, it generally refers to a certain group of items such as ladies’ apparel, men’s shoes, after-Christmas sale, etc., or it might even just be one item but all brands in that category, such as ceiling fans or tires.

A Walmart Rollback is a price reduction on one specific item, not a group or category of items or products.

For example, one brand of a women’s purse may have a regular price of $35.00, with a current Walmart Rollback of $32.25. Sitting next to it is a competing brand of women’s handbag with a regular price of $34.75 and a rollback price of $31.80.

In this example, the rollback prices are specific to the item, which will be the case for all Walmart rollback items.

Clearance sale vs. Regular sale

The one type of sale Walmart does offer is clearance items.

However, they don’t advertise the items to bring consumers into the store, but rather put items on clearance if they are leftover from a season, will no longer be carried in the store, have been discontinued by the manufacturer, etc. Because these items will not be restocked, there can be restrictions on returns.

Rolled back products are items that are not slated to be discontinued. There is no ‘rhyme or reason’ to the consumer why they were selected for a price drop.

The previous prices of the items will come back, but each on its own schedule. You can also return rollback items without any restrictions.

It is important to note that rollback items may not sell as intended and can be moved to a clearance item.

Does the Walmart Rollback pricing strategy apply to online items?

Yes, you will find prices rolled back on the Walmart online store and in their app.

The structure works the same as in the brick and mortar stores, and nothing is done differently if you choose to purchase an item.

How are rollback items selected?

Walmart and the manufacturer of items in the store use the history of their successful marketing tools to decide on items qualified for the program.

Rollback pricing can be chosen for overstocked items to get them to move off the shelves quickly. They can also be products typically known as impulse shopping items, which also sell even more quickly when consumers see the lower price.

Rollback pricing is only available on items that have a history of being sold in the store, which means new products do not qualify for this pricing strategy.

The reasoning behind this is that a new product does not have a ‘was’ price to display on the popular ‘Was/Now’ sign.

What is the best way to keep track of Walmart’s rollback offers?

Customers who wish to keep track of bargains should keep an eye on what things are being rolled back on a regular basis.

This information is readily available on the Walmart website.

You can go to this page, which already has the rollbacks filtered, or just select the filter when you are at the website to display the lower and best prices.

walmart rollback how to filter to see only rollback items

What is the most frequently rolled back item?

In addition to overstocked products, Walmart frequently implements price reductions on groceries and any food products since they are perishable and need to be moved from the shelves more quickly than other types of merchandise such as apparel or technology.

Essentially, if a product has an expiration date you are more likely to see the original price dropped to a Rollback.


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