By Steve Smith on Mar 27 2013 - 7:16pm


Walmart’s Locker Effort May Change Retail

Walmart’s announcement that it will be testing the use of physical lockers at local stores — another method for consumers to pick up purchases — made the rounds on the internet yesterday.

Walmart is known for plenty of things, one of which is the redesign of physical stores and departments. Of course, this locker effort is the next generation of what Walmart and other stores are doing now for in-store pickup of online orders, with the key being to hopefully pick up purchases on the same day.

Supposedly, lockers are an advantage over current in-store pickup plans because they don’t have to stand on a line in the store or deal with store personnel. The retailers will reportedly begin the locker test this summer at selected Walmart locations.

The main point here is that Walmart is trying to match what Amazon is doing in setting up lockers at Staples, which began last fall.

Whether it is a locker program or advances in Walmart’s existing online sales, if successful, one would think this will provide Walmart with major new opportunities to increase store traffic and impulse purchases, both advantages over Amazon.

Because it has no physical stores, Amazon has scrambled to build mega-warehouses to provide same-day delivery — either via home delivery or Staples — which seems to be a more expensive proposition. And with no physical stores, the increased traffic and impulse purchases will go to its partner Staples, or if it partners with other chains.

All these developments make the point that the consumer wants what he wants when he wants it — and that online shopping and physical stores are not an either/or proposition for the foreseeable future.

Bob Lawrence, CEO of the BrandSource buying group, said as much during its February convention, telling his independent retailers that they must “think in a multichannel way” and must engage current and potential customers via websites, mobile devices of all types and their apps, in providing product information, referring them to stores and buying products online.

Independents may not be able to match the merchandising power of Walmart or Amazon, but if they go “multichannel” in creative ways, they can compete effectively in this ever-changing retail arena.

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