Inside This Issue - News
The Walmart C-Store
March 31st, 2014
BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Continuing its efforts to reach consumers with smaller store formats, Walmart opened its first Walmart to Go convenience store earlier this month.
Located at a busy intersection less than a mile from Walmart’s corporate headquarters, the store measures about 5,000 square feet and carries about 3,500 SKUs, with six gas pumps outside.
Walmart officials describe the new format as a test, and they say no others are currently planned. But Walmart has recently announced plans to double its rollout of its other smaller-format stores, the Walmart Neighborhood Market and the Walmart Express. The company now plans to open between 270 and 300 of those stores in the United States this year, up from a previously planned 120 to 150. Besides capturing fill-in shopping trips, the smaller outlets are meant to function as locations where shoppers can pick up merchandise they’ve ordered online at walmart.com.
Walmart has tested another small-format concept, aimed at university students and faculty. The company opened its third Walmart on Campus store last year on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus. That store measures 2,500 square feet and includes a pharmacy. The first Walmart on Campus store opened in 2011 at the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville, and the second opened earlier last year at Arizona State University, in Tempe.
The Walmart to Go outlet is more of a convenience store concept, but with a strong emphasis on on-the-go food options. Walmart has partnered with a local business called Bentonville Butcher and Deli, which operates a quick-serve deli counter in the back of the store that serves deli sandwiches and barbecue. The new Walmart to Go store also features a Krispy Kreme doughnut stand, as well as a beverage station with a soda fountain, milk shakes, coffee and cappuccino.
Other food and beverage options can be found in the coolers that line one side of the store and carry refrigerated food-to-go options, fresh fruit, yogurt, wine and beer.
Five aisles in the middle of the store carry packaged food and convenience-oriented general merchandise, including pet food and diapers.
Customers can also pick up greeting cards, flowers and typical convenience store fare (including tobacco) at the store, which is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Former Walmart executive Andy Wilson told The City Wire, an online news outlet serving northwestern Arkansas, that trying new ideas has always been part of Walmart’s corporate culture, ever since Sam Walton founded the company.
"Sam’s model was ‘Try it, fix it, then do it.’ He fostered a learning environment, and back then we tried lots of ideas," Wilson said. "Of course we were able to keep it quieter than they can today. The Walmart culture has a low resistance to change, and to stay relevant they are constantly testing and tweaking ideas to align with what customers want."
Walmart sees its smaller store formats as offering the potential to get additional growth in markets where it cannot open an additional Supercenter. Walmart has identified a number of markets that are saturated in terms of Supercenters, but where rival formats (including dollar stores, supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores) have successfully opened in recent years to take advantage of consumers’ interest in more convenient and closer-to-home options for fill-in trips.
The smaller formats are also seen as providing opportunities for Walmart to expand into markets it is not currently serving. The Neighborhood Markets (which are comparable to a food/drug combination store and are typically about 45,000 square feet) and the Walmart Express stores (smaller outlets more comparable to dollar stores at between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet) can be used to tap urban markets, where it is difficult to find suitable real estate parcels for Supercenters, or rural markets where the population base is too small to support a Supercenter.