TOMBALL, Texas -- Wal-Mart’s new Supercenter near Houston opened Wednesday with what the company called “some of the newest shopping innovations in retail.” The store will serve as a testing ground for new amenities while the company decides whether to make them available in other markets.
The Houston-area Supercenter opens on the heels of two Wal-Mart Pickup With Fuel convenience stores with online pickup in Colorado and Alabama and two c-stores at Supercenters in Texas and Arkansas that offer standard convenience goods and services.
Wal-Mart’s announcement also follows online retailer Amazon’s first c-store concept—Amazon Go—which includes “just walk out” technology that detects when customers take or return products to the shelves. Is this newest Wal-Mart store a step toward matching that effort?
“We are investing in new ways to make shopping fast, and easy through tech-enabled relationships. Customers want shopping to be fast, easy, and convenient—whether they’re in a store, online or on their phones. Wal-Mart has always saved people money—now, we’re also saving them time,” Wal-Mart spokesperson Anne Hatfield told CSP Daily News.
“We are testing several new, unique concepts that keep pace with our customers' wants and needs,” she said. “Customers here can now experience some of the newest innovations in retail, created to maximize the shopping experience and enhance customer service, while continuing to offer everyday low prices on quality products. The store will showcase new approaches to technologies, services, products and layout, which will be tested with customers and evaluated for potential implementation in other locations across the country. We invite customers to visit the store and let us know what they think.”
Tomball is the third Wal-Mart store to offer Scan & Go. It launched the pilot at a Supercenter in Rogers Ark., and at a new Supercenter in Lake Nona, Fla., which opened on January 25.
The company has "no plans to expand just yet," Hatfield said. "We are testing at these three stores to get feedback."
1. Scan-and-go shopping
Customers can scan and instantly purchase items with their mobile devices while shopping, making the traditional checkout line an optional step in the shopping process. The Wal-Mart Scan & Go app is available on both iTunes and Google Play.
Users pre-load a credit card on the app. Once they pay for their order, a barcode appears on the phone. They show that barcode to the customer host as they exit the store.
2. Free car-side delivery
The Tomball unit includes a pickup services area where customers can grab prescriptions, general merchandise and groceries ordered from Walmart.com at no extra cost. A kiosk tells the customer which parking spot to pull into.
The pickup area is manned by Wal-Mart personal shoppers who load the items into customers’ cars, allowing them to receive items without leaving their vehicles.
Wal-Mart has free grocery pickup service at approximately 600 stores, the company said. The Tomball and Lake Nona stores are the only two stores to also include pharmacy and general merchandise orders along with grocery.
3. Texas’ first Chobani Cafe
The Chobani Cafe outpost in the Supercenter is the concept’s third location after a stand-alone unit in Manhattan’s SoHo district and one inside of a Target located in Lower Manhattan, both in New York. The cafe covers 2,000 square feet and offers “Mediterranean-inspired” dishes.
4. Expanded grocery department
Wal-Mart’s updated grocery area includes new deli offerings, additional cheese and wine options and an in-store bakery with a pizza bar.
The deli features a kiosk where customers can select the meats and cheeses they want, choose the quantity either by weight or number of slices and select the thickness preference of each slice. Customer then can continue shopping while deli staff fill the order and place it in a special cooler next to the kiosk where the customer can pick it up.
5. 'Smart Table'
The store also features four digital interactive product education tables for connected devices, which Wal-Mart calls “smart tables.” There is one each for electronics, baby, health and wellness and connected home departments.
This is a way for customers to learn about some of the most popular connected devices like Google Home, Apple TV, baby monitors or connected thermostats so they can make informed decisions before they buy. They wave their hand over the picture of the item they are interested in and a video will play or information will appear about that product.
6. The Wal-Mart Care Clinic
Customers can receive medical services normally found at a doctor’s office, including health screenings, vaccinations, lab testing, wellness and preventive care, acute-care diagnosis and treatment and management of some chronic conditions. The clinic also offers a full-service vision center.
In addition to over-the-counter medications and heart monitors, the clinic offers prescriptions through the pharmacy. Residents in the area can transfer prescriptions and order refills through the clinic.
This is the first Wal-Mart Care Clinic in the greater Houston area.
7. New design and layout
The store’s design uses clerestory windows in the roof to allow in more natural light. The unit’s health amenities and salon are all positioned near one another, and kid-focused departments such as children’s apparel and toys are grouped together and arranged by age.