CE Starting Slow In Walmart Express Stores

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CE has a modest presence in Walmart’s new “mini” store format, but may assume a larger role in the assortment as the rollout progresses.

The retailer is using the relatively small 15,000-square-foot Express stores to backfill rural markets and to penetrate urban areas including Chicago, New York, San Diego and Washington DC, where placement of its average 100,000-squarefoot boxes is unfeasible.

While discount rival Target is similarly opening five small-format City Target stores in four urban markets in 2012, Walmart plans to have 15 to 20 rural and urban mini stores in place by year’s end, and could roll out what amount to hundreds of locations across the country.

“The aim here is to get the right model so that we can rapidly roll these things out,” Walmart U.S. president/CEO Bill Simon told investors in March. “At our peak we built about 350 supercenters in a year, so when we get this thing right, these are going to come real fast, and we’re real excited about this format.”

Simon said the assortments of Walmart’s mini stores will be tailored to their local markets, and that sales will be “supercharged” by the company’s multi-channel capabilities, which will allow customers to place orders online and retrieve their purchases at nearby Express locations.

Regional variations aside, the stores’ initial CE component will largely consist of “fill-in” and impulse-purchase products like batteries, blank media, basic phones, DVD players, movies and accessories, Walmart home entertainment senior VP Gary Severson told TWICE.

But that strategy may evolve as the Express rollout progresses. “We’re committed to learning and there are other possibilities,” he said, such as assorting the core CE line. “We may try that, and we may find that customers could interact with PCs to order products online and pick them up locally.”

To that end, Walmart has expanded its multi-channel offering to include a “Pick Up Today” service that allows customers to purchase items online and receive free same-day pickup at a nearby Walmart store. Orders are generally ready for pickup in about four hours, and orders placed after 6 p.m. are ready for pickup at 10 a.m. the next day.

The new service will eventually cover up to 40,000 items, including CE and video games, and is expected to be available at Walmart’s 3,000 stores by the end of this quarter.

“We’ve seen strong customer response from initial tests of Pick Up Today,” said


senior VP and general manager Steve Nave, “and we’re pleased to expand the program to customers nationwide.”

The discounter also offers Site to Store, a five-year-old program that ships online orders for free to a Walmart store of their choice within four to seven days. The service covers tens of thousands of SKUs, most of which are unavailable within its brick-and-mortar locations. “Walmart is uniquely positioned to combine the power of e-commerce with our national retail footprint to offer a leading, multichannel experience that delivers the best savings and convenience to our customers,” Nave said.

Walmart is also testing a FedEx Site to Store program in metro markets without a Walmart presence that allows customers to order online and ship products free to a FedEx office.


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