As I travel the country in my RV, I have the privilege of visiting scores of Walmart stores. I think I can safely say that the Walmart retail experience is one of the most underrated in the industry. There is a Walmart about every 50 miles along the interstate system, and these stores dominate the retail scene in mid-size and small towns across the U.S. (Side note: Dollar General dominates the state highway system with a store every 10 or so miles.) Walmart stores are big, beautiful and well-maintained with excellent prices. At a suburban Chicago store on a recent weekend, the crowded parking lot and the traffic inside the store were stunning.
- Remember 10 years ago when Walmart embarked on an initiative called “Project Impact” – or as many of us termed it: “Inaction Alley.” The main aisles had no displays. While that effort was well-intentioned, the shopping experience was void of excitement and the opportunity for impulse purchases. We have come full circle today. The “Action Alley” effort is well-developed and going strong. One of the lead players as a Walmart partner is Procter & Gamble, shown here with full pallets of his and hers Christmas gift items.
- The commitment to the perimeter fresh departments has been impressive. Whether Deli, Bakery or Produce, the areas are well-stocked and well-maintained with great signage. In Produce, there is an obvious effort to identify locally sourced items and organic. The Fresh Meat, Frozen and Dairy departments are equally well-stocked and maintained.
- Walmart brand partnerships extend beyond the typical grocery and HBC relationships into the small kitchen appliances section of the store. In addition to SodaStream, there were strong presentations with Keurig and others. The signage indicates that Walmart is a CO2 cartridge exchange location.
- Walmart is bridging the physical and digital experience, improving them for shoppers and Walmart associates as well. In my visits, I’m often not familiar with the store layout. This screenshot of my Walmart app gives me the location of hair curlers – Aisle B26 – in a specific store. I’ve tested this app more than 100 times, and it has failed me only once. The app also lets store associates provide instant directions to shoppers.
- The electronics department continues to become more and more stunning. In addition to this Bose display, there were 15 equally impressive branded permanent display fixtures for other electronics, cameras, electronic games, smartwatches, etc. And I did an Amazon price check on the blue Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker. The same at $129.
- Walmart is right up there behind Costco with its weekend sampling and demo events. This event promoting the late November release of “Frozen II” was one of the more accomplished I’ve seen at retail. There were gifts for children, brochures, coloring books and opportunities to enter raffles for free movie tickets, as well as products for purchase.
- This impressive display with brand partner Mission Foods is a “Mission Taco Truck.” The partners are promoting “Easy Pairings Kids Will Love,” including PB&J; chocolate spread and banana; and strawberry cream cheese and berries. The display offers a strong digital connection to a wide variety of recipes at MissionMenus.com.
- No discussion of Walmart would be complete without mentioning its amazing success with delivery and pickup. Many of the stores are providing improved special parking for pickups. The area is close to a door/entrance, and signage includes a phone number to call upon arrival. Orders typically arrive at your car in less than two minutes. Additionally, you can check-in and pick up your order via in-store kiosks.