Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 December15th2020

Sell for More News: Walmart tests combining stores with warehouses

Published on December 15th, 2020

Sell for More News is a weekly blog series with interesting information from the world of commercial real estate.


As online shopping surges during the so-called pandemic, Walmart is launching test stores to experiment with new ways technology and physical enhancements might improve the customer experience.  First up is the combined store and warehouse.

The idea is to use stores for real-time experimentation that incorporates elements of physical shopping destinations with online fulfillment centers, becoming barometers for the rest of the fleet.

With more than 4,700 stores across the US, Walmart’s pioneering strategy is expected to be closely watched by other retailers as it looks to reimagine its massive real estate assets…a substantial advantage it has over e-commerce-only retailers such as Amazon.

Stores as micro fulfillment centers

Walmart plans to turn the back of stores into micro fulfillment centers…and they may really be on to something.  They are moving quickly to use their physical retail stores to not only serve in-store shoppers…but to meet the needs of online shoppers, too.

As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart influences the entire industry.  Walmart already has two stores in the works and another two planned, though it did not identify them.

New technology

Another goal is to continuously rotate new technology, digital tools and physical enhancements in and out of the stores to speed up gathering products for delivery and curbside pickup orders.

A new app being tested uses augmented reality to scan multiple boxes at once, reducing the time it takes to get them on the sales floor.

At the same time, Walmart wants to solve the inventory gap between what’s available in stores compared to its online product lineup. By moving, say, most of the in-store apparel assortment online, the company hopes to improve what’s called the omnichannel shopping experience.

Polishing that experience as COVID-19 concerns continue to diminish in-store traffic has shot up to #1 on all retailers’ to-do lists.

Majority of shopping future

Online shopping with curbside pickup or BOPIS (Buy online, pickup in store) were gaining momentum ahead of the pandemic; now it’s full steam ahead.

“We’ve known for years that BOPIS was huge to the consumer — bigger to consumers than it was to retailers,” Walmart said, adding that delivery, curbside pickup and BOPIS are never going away even after the world gets back to some kind of normal.

Walmart said that e-commerce and BOPIS have a possible “majority of shopping future.”  That supports the emerging practice of using the back of the stores as fulfillment centers.

And training workers to respond as quickly and easily to curbside pickup or BOPIS orders as they would in-store purchases will be paramount to success.

Failed Experiments

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based giant has shown in recent years it’s not afraid to pull tests that are not performing as well as executives expect. In May, it announced it was doing away with Jet.com, its $3 billion acquisition made to compete against Amazon. The company found that its own Walmart.com site was more cost efficient.

And Walmart said it will no longer use in-store roving robots to track stock positions, a technology it hoped would reduce labor costs while keeping inventory intact. Its lesson here was that humans were more proficient than the tech.


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About Beau Beach, MBA CCIM

Beau is a tenacious Commercial Real Estate Broker, author and adoring father of four. His clients appreciate his no-nonsense demeanor and his legendary work ethic.

Beau leads Beachwood which is a commercial real estate broker for sellers in the Nashville, Milwaukee and South Florida markets.

He’s the author of the books The 3 Reasons: Why Most Commercial Properties Don’t Sell and True Wealth: What Every Seller Should Know About 1031 Exchanges.

Beau can be reached at 800-721-3287, click to schedule a call or Beau@soldbybeachwood.com