Wal-Mart Stores’s increasing reliance on e-commerce to fuel sales comes at a time when Amazon.com is tightening its grip on the American consumer, making it a risky gambit.

Wal-Mart told investors Thursday it would pull back on the number of new stores it was opening and instead invest some of that money into online operations. It’s a key milestone: For the first time, the company expects e-commerce gains to contribute more toward its growth than expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint.

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