Wal-Mart adds more online grocery pickup sites in Northwest Arkansas

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 192 views 

Wal-Mart is rolling out grocery pickup options at several of its Northwest Arkansas stores beginning Sept. 23. The retailer said it’s expanding the grocery pickup test in its home market by adding five new Neighborhood Markets as pickup sites.

The new pickup sites are at the following Neighborhood Market locations: Fayetteville, 2690 E. Citizens Drive; Springdale, 4900 Jennifer Terrace; Rogers, 808 W. Walnut; Bentonville,1703 E. Central Avenue; and Bentonville,1400 N. Walton Boulevard.

“Shoppers can order their groceries online up to three weeks in advance and then schedule a pickup time at their local store. The expanded website should go live tonight (Sept. 15) with these newest locations,” said John Forrest Ales, corporate spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores.

He said the expanded service is an addition to the Bentonville Pickup Grocery format and the soon-to-be-completes supercenter pickup facility at the Pleasant Grove Road supercenter in the coming months.

“The pickup times at the Neighborhood Markets will be slightly different than other two facilities. The hours for pickup at a Neighborhood Market test site range from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” Ales said. 

A Walmart employee will pull the orders and bag the items prior to the pickup time. When the customer pulls into one of four parking spots for grocery pickup they will notify the store by phone and the worker will bring the grocery order to their car, he said.

Shoppers will be able to choose from roughly 10,000 items listed on the online shopping  portal. Ales said not all of the items in a Neighborhood Market will be available with online ordering. He said the retailer will continue to tweak the online items available for pickup as needed. One of the common complaints The City Wire has heard about using the Bentonville Pickup facility is the limited items (10,000) relative to what a Neighborhood Market carries (25,000).

Ales said the grocery items include fresh meat, dairy and produce as well as health and beauty aids, packaged foods, non-edible grocery and various pet foods. He said Walmart.com general merchandise items may also be picked up at Neighborhood Market inside the store at the service desk. The grocery pickup test is being run separately. The test could result in a "rapid expansion" nationwide, according to one retail industry watcher.

"Wal-Mart can’t waste time expanding grocery pickup as competitors nip at its heels. Leveraging smaller-footprint Neighborhood Markets for this purpose makes sense, particularly as Walmart ramps up the number of smaller format locations. Walmart is offering a truly convenient option to local shoppers while working out the bugs in its own back yard. I would expect a rapid expansion once that happens," said Carol Spieckerman, CEO of newmarketbuilders in Bentonville.

Wal-Mart did not disclose how fast it may continue to roll out the grocery pickup noting there are still issues to resolve before the service is ready for a nationwide rollout.

Wal-Mart executives told the media in June that it aimed to be No. 1 in the pickup format, and grocery was going to lead the way. Steve Bratspies, exec vice president of grocery for Walmart U.S., said the retailer is committed to giving customers choices and pickup grocery is one area that Wal-Mart aims to win. The retailer opened its grocery pickup format in Bentonville a year ago and has continued to woo shoppers to the format by offering $10 discounts off of the first $50 order. 

The one-of-a-kind format is a testing ground for the retail giant who has been using supercenters and Neighborhood Markets in San Jose, Denver, Phoenix and Huntsville, Alabama to see how it resonated with its diverse customer base for the past year or two. Analysts have said Wal-Mart’s biggest asset is its possible distribution points and the store pickup option looks like it may the ticket going forward. 

Wal-Mart executives said in June they were still working out some bumps and learning how to improve grocery pickup from online ordering but they intended to expand the test markets in the coming months to see if they warrant a national rollout. Ellen Martinez, operations manager for the Bentonville pickup grocery, continually uses customer feedback to tweak the items in the local format. She said there has been a conscious effort to add more organic produce in recent months because consumers have asked.