By Christine Kern, contributing writer
As customers demand greater flexibility in ordering options, Walmart responds with remodels.
As the retail giant boosts its investment in digital operations, Walmart also is investing millions of dollars in the remodeling of between 400 and 640 physical stores in an effort to meet customer demands for more efficient fulfillment options, according to a report from MLive Media Group. Improvements include physical alterations like widening aisles; improving sight-lines by lowering shelves and boosting signage; moving pickup service locations to the front of stores and creating lounge areas for those picking up online orders. MLive said that the changes also include expanding produce, deli, bakery, and baby sections; and offering more fresh and organic choices, MLive reported.
The retail giant has completed remodels of 95 stores globally, and in the U.S. has expanded its in-store pickup of online grocery service to nearly 670 locations, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.
"We're moving faster to combine our digital and physical assets to make shopping easier and more enjoyable for customers," President and CEO Doug McMillon said this week in a recorded statement to investors.
"Some of these are little things you may not notice when you walk into the store," said Anne Hatfield, director of communications for the chain. However, they represent big changes in the way Walmart actually uses its physical space. Superstores can range from 125,000 to 190,000 square feet, yet Walmart knows its customers are making the digital transition and embracing online shopping. The goal of the store makeovers is to help retain existing customers and attract new ones with versatility, convenience, and range of offerings.
Hatfield explained, “Shopping is changing; shoppers’ habits are changing. We need to make sure we’re keeping up.” And while Walmart’s ecommerce numbers are rising, with a 63 percent increase in the first quarter of the year, physical stores are still important. Hatfield stated, “We’re trying on many different fronts, including putting investments into our stores…to make sure we are serving customers.”
These wide-spread remodels are in addition to company experiments with new technology being piloted at two new supercenters, as Innovative Retail Technologies reported. Walmart is testing new layouts and Scan and Go checkout technology at supercenters in Tomball, Texas and Lake Nona, Florida.