Walmart is quietly preparing to enter the Metaverse

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A shopper carries a bag in front of a Walmart store in San Leandro, California on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Walmart appears to be venturing into the Metaverse with plans to create its own cryptocurrency and collection of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

The major retailer filed several new brands late last month, announcing its intention to manufacture and sell virtual goods including electronics, home decor, toys, sporting goods and personal care products. In a separate filing, the company said it will offer users virtual currency as well as NFTs.

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, Walmart filed the applications on Dec. 30.

A total of seven individual applications were submitted.

A spokesman for Walmart did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Source: Tanning Intellectual Property

“They’re super intense,” he said Josh Gerben, Trademark Attorney. “There’s a lot of language in there, which shows there’s a lot of planning going on behind the scenes about how they’re going to approach cryptocurrency, how they’re going to address the metaverse and the virtual world that seems to be coming or that’s already there.”

Gerben said since Facebook announced it would change its company name to Meta, signaling its ambitions beyond social media, companies have rushed to figure out how they would fit into a virtual world.

Source: Tanning Intellectual Property

Nike filed a series of trademark filings in early November that previewed its plans to sell virtual branded sneakers and apparel. Later that month, it announced that it was teaming up with Roblox to create an online world called Nikeland. In December, virtual sneaker company RTFKT (pronounced “artifact”) bought it for an undisclosed amount.

“Suddenly everyone is saying, ‘This is getting real and we need to make sure our intellectual property is protected in space,'” Gerben said.

Gap has also started selling NFTs its iconic logo sweatshirts. The apparel maker said its NFTs range in increments from about $8.30 to $415 and come with a physical hoodie.

Meanwhile, both Under Armor and Adidas NFT debuts sold out last month. They are now fetching sky-high prices on the OpenSea NFT marketplace.

Gerben said clothing retailers Urban Outfitters, Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch have also filed trademarks in recent weeks detailing their intention to open some sort of virtual store.

A report by CB Insights outlined some of the reasons why retailers and brands want to enter into such ventures, which can potentially provide new revenue streams.

The launch of NFTs allows companies to tokenize physical products and services to reduce online transaction costs, it said. And for luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, NFTs can serve as a form of authentication for tangible and more expensive goods, CB Insights noted.

Gerben said that as more consumers become familiar with the Metaverse and the items stored on the blockchain, more retailers want to create their own ecosystem around it.

According to Frank Chaparro, director of the crypto information services firm The block, many retailers are still lagging behind when it comes to e-commerce and don’t want to miss opportunities in the metaverse.

“I think it’s a win-win for any company in retail,” Chaparro said. “And even if it turns out to be just a fad, just trying something weird like giving some customers an NFT in a sweepstakes doesn’t do much reputation damage.”

— CNBC’s Melissa Repko contributed to this reporting.

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