By Nandita Bose
(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N> has acquired online outdoor clothing and gear retailer Moosejaw for $51 million in an all-cash deal, the company said on Wednesday, as it works to boost its competitive standing in U.S. e-commerce.
Moosejaw will be Wal-Mart's third acquisition in just over six months. In August 2016, the world's largest retailer paid more than $3 billion to acquire online startup Jet.com and in late December, Jet.com acquired online footwear retailer ShoeBuy for approximately $70 million.
In the five years before the Jet.com deal, the retailer acquired more than 15 startups. Wal-Mart has not disclosed what it spent on each of those acquisitions, but said it spent a total of $3.1 billion on e-commerce and digital projects in the four fiscal years to January 2017.
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Moosejaw is a Michigan-based online retailer with 10 brick-and-mortar stores. It sells outdoor gear and apparel from makers including Patagonia and North Face and has "strong relationships" with these brands, Wal-Mart said in a statement.
"Apparel and accessories is now the number one category for digital commerce, according to comScore Inc <SCOR.PK>, and we gain the experience of another well-established e-commerce player, this time in the active outdoor category," Wal-Mart's statement said.
Moosejaw will continue to operate its site and stores separately and will be run as a standalone brand.
Wal-Mart has been working aggressively to close the gap with rival Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> under the leadership of Chief Executive Doug McMillon and new e-commerce chief Marc Lore. In October it said it will slow the pace of new store openings to focus on expanding its e-commerce business.
Lore, who joined Wal-Mart when it purchased the company he founded, Jet.com, has been charged with revitalizing Wal-Mart's online business and has introduced changes such as free two-day shipping.
On Monday, Reuters reported that Wal-Mart for the first time will combine its own buying for products sold at its stores with purchases it makes for its website, a significant move to stamp out duplicate efforts as it consolidates buying operations.
Wal-Mart's online sales account for about 3 percent of total sales. It is looking for online sales growth of 20 to 30 percent in the second half of this year, and for even faster growth in the next few years.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)