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Dec 6, 10:50 PM EST

In the age of Amazon, Walmart is changing its legal name


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AP Photo/Alan Diaz

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is changing its legal name effective Feb. 1 as it shifts away from physical stores in the age of Amazon's increasing dominance.

The world's largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, said Wednesday it will change its legal name to Walmart Inc. from Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

It said the move underscores its growing emphasis on serving shoppers in different ways beyond just physical stores but also online, on their mobile devices and through pickup and delivery. The company has been making inroads in narrowing the gap between itself and Amazon by making big investments in its online business. It tripled the number of items sold online from a year ago, overhauled its free shipping strategy and is expanding such services as allowing shoppers to pick up online grocery orders curbside at the stores. That has helped drive strong e-commerce sales gains in the past several quarters, most recently 50 percent growth in its fiscal third quarter.

Walmart operates more than 11,600 stores and clubs under 60 different banners worldwide.

"Whether it's in our stores, on our sites, with our apps, by using their voice or whatever comes next, there is just one Walmart as far as our customers are concerned," wrote Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO, in a blog post Wednesday.

The discounter's formal legal name when it incorporated on Oct. 31, 1969 was Wal-Mart Inc. It was changed to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Jan. 9, 1970, the same year it went public. It will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange as "WMT." It's been using the current Walmart logo in its operations since June 2008.

But for employees who still want to do the "squiggly" in the Walmart cheer where they move their hips when they get to the hyphen, there is nothing to fear.

"Getting our blood flowing and choosing not to take ourselves too seriously is still part of our culture," McMillon wrote Wednesday. "It's important to have some fun at work, so for our associates in countries where your cheer calls for the squiggly, keep doing it!"

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