Walmart to remodel 21 California stores, expand customer services and technologies – Daily News

on Apr10
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Walmart plans to spend $145 million in California this year on new store construction, upgrades to 21 stores and an expansion of customer-focused services and technologies.

The new store will be built in Tehachapi, and locations earmarked for remodeling include stores in Anaheim, Covina, Upland and Corona, the mega-retailer announced Wednesday.

“The remodeling will depend on the store location,” company spokeswoman Tiffany Wilson explained. “Some stores will be getting expanded health and beauty sections while others might be getting renovations to the sporting goods area. We’ll also be adding new flooring and ‘mothers rooms’ to some stores where mothers can nurse their babies.”

Some pharmacy departments will be expanded with consultation rooms, Wilson said, where customers can have private conversations with a pharmacist without having to worry about others listening in.

Expanded services

Walmart’s Pickup Towers function much like giant vending machines. They allow shoppers to scan the barcode that was sent to their smartphone and retrieve their merchandise. The company plans to expand the technology to 61 California stores, including City of Industry, Long Beach and Santa Ana. They are already in use at some Southland locations. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb)

On the service/technology side, Walmart plans the following:

  • Grocery pickup — Shop online and pick up groceries at a nearby Walmart without having to leave the car. The company will expand the program to more than 69 stores across California.
  • Grocery delivery — Walmart plans to add the service to 68 stores.
  • Walmart Pickup Towers — These 16-foot-tall, high-tech vending machines are already found in some Southern California stores. They can fulfill a shopper’s online order in less than a minute. Shoppers step up to the tower, scan the barcode sent to their smartphone and retrieve merchandise. Walmart plans to expand this technology to 61 California stores, including City of Industry, Long Beach and Santa Ana.
  • FAST Unloader — This system automatically scans and sorts items as they come off delivery trucks, based on priority and department. It speeds the back-room unloading process and allows employees to spend more time out front with customers. It will be expanded to 61 stores statewide.
  • Autonomous floor scrubber — Automated tech that cleans and scrubs concrete floors in stores will be expanded to 45 stores throughout California, including locations in Santa Clarita and Pico Rivera.

“We have momentum in the business now with strong comparable store sales and strong foot traffic,” Wilson said. “All of these options are designed to let customers shop how, when and where they want. Some shop at our physical stores, others shop online and still others do a combination of the two.”

Walmart, she said, is looking to create “a seamless physical and digital experience” that takes the friction out of shopping.

Surging ahead in the grocery industry

Burt Flickinger III, managing director for the retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, said Walmart was lagging behind Amazon four or five years ago. But the company has since made some smart moves — particularly in the realm of food pricing and delivery.

“Walmart has always had the size and scale to compete with Amazon, but the company now has arguably more skills in terms of being able to provide fresh products via click-and-collect at prices that are close to half of Amazon’s Whole Food prices,” he said. “And every Walmart is the equivalent of three to five Albertsons or Vons stores in terms of volume.”

Nielsen and the Food Marketing Institute predict consumers will spend $100 billion a year on online grocery shopping by 2022. And in five to seven years, they said, 70% of U.S. consumers will regularly purchase consumer packaged goods online.

An $11 billion expenditure plan

Walmart’s new-store construction, upgrades and expanded programs and technologies are part of the company’s $11 billion capital expenditure plan for fiscal 2020. Nationwide, the retailer plans to add another 1,200 autonomous floor scrubbers, 1,200 FAST unloaders, and 900 Pickup Towers to stores across the U.S.

Grocery pickup service will likewise be expanded to 1,000 additional stores and grocery delivery will be available at another 800 Walmart locations.

The company also plans to add another 300 autonomous shelf-scanners at its stores. Developed by San Francisco-based Bossa Nova Robotics, the robots are already in service at Walmart locations in Burbank, Palmdale, Lancaster and Santa Clarita.

The smart-devices use artificial intelligence and machine learning to help identify where merchandise levels are low, prices are wrong or labels are missing. A robot can scan dozens of aisles in under an hour. That allows employees to identify inventory levels several times a day, providing near real-time updates of what areas of the store need the most attention.

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