Walmart opens new urban concept store

Walmart Canada has introduced a new Supercentre format in Toronto designed to attract on-the-go urban families who have plenty of e-commerce options at their disposal.

The “Urban Supercentre” concept boasts expanded food offerings in a rebranded “Fresh Market” section, as well as a store-within-a-store presence from a handful of third-party retailers, modernized display and layout, and a dedicated section for online ordering and pickup.

Most notably, the new store is among the first to offer Walmart’s “Fast Lane” mobile self checkout, which enables My Walmart app users to scan products as they move through the aisles for a faster checkout experience. At checkout, they scan a barcode for their order, with payment automatically taken from a credit card that is on file. Walmart had previously introduced a scan-and-go service where shoppers used a portable scanner provided in-store, though that service was short lived.

While one of the big box stores’ answers to changing shopping habits of urban consumers was smaller stores, the revamped Supercentre is 139,000 sq. ft. and includes much the same product selection as other Walmart Supercentres—but with a number of new enhancements intended to provide a more complete experience.

Walmart Canada president and CEO Lee Tappenden says the company plans to spend $200 million remodelling its 410-store network this year. It has spent approximately $1 billion revamping its bricks-and-mortar locations over the past five years.

But while the company continues to invest heavily in its traditional store network, Tappenden says he is pleased with its progress in the increasingly important area of “omnichannel” shopping.

“We’re particularly pleased with the customer reception to grocery pick-up and we’re seeing very strong interest in grocery delivery, especially in urban areas,” he says. “It’s really about finding those customer touch-points that are most convenient for them.”

The third-party retailer presence within the store includes Freshii (for those who prefer salads) and McDonald’s (for those who prefer Big Macs), as well as The UPS Store, The Party Shop, and popular Asian discount lifestyle brand Miniso.

The revamped store also features a dedicated grocery pick-up area for online ordering. The Fresh Market, meanwhile, has theatre lighting and wood panelling to make it feel more like a market, and offers fresh produce and 100% Canadian meat, chicken and seafood.

Paula Bonner, senior vice-president of format development for Walmart, said the company has done “very well” in grocery since its Canadian launch, but continues to prioritize key areas such as international, local and organics. The company also sees considerable opportunity for its two private label brands, Great Value and Our Finest.

The company’s partnerships with Freshii and Naoki Sushi, meanwhile, represent an effort to expand its grab-and-go offering, said Bonner. “We haven’t developed [it] that much, but we see potential there,” she said.

Bonner downplayed suggestions that traditional retailers like Walmart are adapting to meet the inevitable threat posed by online retail giants like Amazon. “It’s about what the customer is telling us,” she said. “We can offer anything because [customers] say ‘I come to you because you’re a one-stop shop with great prices.’ That gives us a playground to say what does the customer want, and not focus so much on what our competitors are doing.”

The UPS Store president David Druker said that the company’s new Walmart outlet is the first of 10-12 locations it plans to introduce within Walmart locations this year. “We just thought it was a great fit for our brand to work with the Walmart brand,” said Druker of the company’s tie-up with Walmart. “It’s a powerful meeting of two great brands that make life easier for their customers.”



David Brown