'Walmart to Go' Convenience Store a Go
Retail giant's first true c-store has much-watched "soft" launch
BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- After more than a year of planning and intense media curiosity, the Walmart to Go convenience store "quietly" opened in Bentonville, Ark., on March 15, with the grand opening set for March 19, reported The City Wire. It is Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s new effort to capture a different and growing element of the retail market.
The newspaper described the small store is a "hybrid format--part traditional convenience store, part grocery, part quick-serve restaurant." The site also features six canopied gasoline dispensers.
Walmart partnered with Bentonville Butcher & Deli to operate a deli counter in the back of the store. There are soda and frozen drink fountains, milk shakes and full coffee bar.
Refrigerated food-to-go includes market fresh pizzas, sandwiches and other meat entrees. There is also fresh fruit and a Greek yogurt smoothie station.
The store offers beer and wine in a walk-in cooler, as well as frozen food.
The small grocery component includes five aisles with hundreds of packaged foods and nonfood items from breakfast cereals to dog food and diapers. Shirley's Flowers has a fresh flowers kiosk near the front doors next to the Hallmark Cards. The store also has Krispy Kreme doughnuts, magazines, books and an ATM, as well as interior and exterior seating areas.
The center of the store closely resembles a traditional c-store with cashiers in a corral with a wide range of tobacco products.
The retailer is testing an online grocery delivery service with a similar name, WalmartToGo.com, said a report by Arkansas Business. Wal-Mart spokesperson Deisha Barnett told the newspaper that the Walmart to Go c-store is a "one-off project."
"It's a convenience store test concept," she said. "We're not planning any more across the country."
Walmart currently operates 20 small-format Walmart Express stores, approximately 15,000 square feet in size. The units have performed well, it said, and the company is expanding them beyond the initial three-market pilot. The company also is testing several 2,500-square-foot, college-based convenience store-type retail outlets called Walmart on Campus.
Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and CEO recently said that its "small-store expansion … including fresh, pharmacy and fuel, will help us usher in the next generation of retail." In what industry observers have pegged as a strategy to quell competition from the dollar-store channel, Wal-Mart has announced that it is significantly accelerating its capital plan for U.S. small-store format openings for the current fiscal year.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores has 10,942 stores under 71 banners in 27 countries and e-commerce websites in 10 countries, with fiscal-year 2014 sales of more than $473 billion.