Walmart advances 'Unlimited' food aspirations

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Walmart advances 'Unlimited' food aspirations

By Mike Troy - 09/12/2019

Walmart is in omnichannel overdrive when it comes to food retailing. The nation’s largest food retailer plans to expand its grocery delivery program branded as Delivery Unlimited to 1,600 stores in 200 metro areas where it currently offers delivery. The expansion will occur by year end and follows a four market test begun earlier this year in Houston, Miami, Salt Lake City and Tampa.

Customers who opt in to the membership-based program which resembles the structure of Amazon Prime can pay an annual fee of $98 or a monthly fee of $12.95. Customers who don’t want to be a Delivery Unlimited member can pay a per delivery fee. Walmart’s rates undercut Amazon’s Prime program which offers a broader product assortment and content and for an annual fee of $119. The AmazonFresh program which offers “free” two-hour delivery of grocery products in select markets changes Prime members an additional $14.99 monthly fee.

“Grocery Delivery takes convenience to a new level, and our customers love it. With Delivery Unlimited, we’re providing incredible value for our customers and leveraging our unique assets to save them both time and money,” said Janey Whiteside, Walmart’s chief customer officer.

Those unique assets include a network of more than 4,500 supercenters nationwide that are being leveraged in others ways as well. Walmart’s Grocery Pickup service has expanded at a blistering pace the past few years and is projected to be available at more than 3,000 locations by year end.

An even more noteworthy development is on the horizon too. Walmart this fall is piloting an in-home grocery delivery service in Pittsburgh, Vero Beach, Fla., and Kansas City. The service will be available to roughly one million people in those markets and involves delivery employees placing products directly in customers’ refrigerators and pantries.

To execute its delivery programs, Walmart relies on a network of 45,000 of its own personal shoppers and various delivery services. Specially trained employees complete a three week training program and those selected for the in-home delivery pilot must meet additional training and length of employment requirements to qualify.

The combination of improvements to in-store fresh merchandising and operations and aggressive expansion of omnichannel food initiative have led to a resurgence of same store sales growth at Walmart and propelled the company’s share price to new highs. Speaking about the Grocery Pickup service in early September at the Goldman Sachs Global Retail Conference, Walmart chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies said the service has been highly incremental because it brings in new customers and repeat business.

“The average basket size is about two times what a standard grocery basket is, so obviously we're excited about that,” Bratspies said.

The baskets are likely to get bigger too as Grocery Pickup evolves to simply Pickup as a larger assortment of general merchandise ordered online becomes available for pickup.