Walmart To Test New Store That’s Only For Picking Up Online Grocery Orders

The planned site of the new Walmart drive-thru pick-up center in Bentonville.

The planned site of the new Walmart drive-thru pick-up center in Bentonville.

While many large retailers, allow customers to place orders online and then come pick them up at the store, Walmart is planning to test out a new depot format where customers don’t do any shopping, but only pick up groceries they has pre-ordered on Walmart’s website.

Since last fall, the country’s largest retailer has been testing a drive-thru system for picking up online orders at 11 stores in the Denver area, but the planned project in Walmart’s Arkansas hometown of Bentonville will be a stand-alone depot that is not connected to a Walmart store.

The idea was first announced by CEO Bill Simon earlier this year at an investors conference in Orlando, and this week the retailer is showing its plans to the city.

According to 40/29 News (Note: auto-play video at that link), the site for the first depot is about the length of a football field and would feature six drive-thru lanes.

The City Wire reports that while there won’t be a retail store at the location, there will be a sizable 15,000 square-foot warehouse holding 10,000 different grocery items.

Customers who place their orders online are given a time after which they can pick up their groceries. They pull up and Walmart employees help load their vehicles with the stuff they purchased.

The idea of a grocery pick-up center that does not have a retail facet could be an interesting development. Fresh and frozen items would be easier to store as they wouldn’t be constantly exposed to warmer temperatures. The depot would be able to stock all items in a warehouse inventory where the emphasis would (presumably) be on efficient storage and access, rather than having to concern itself with whether one brand of ketchup is positioned in a more marketing-friendly location than others, or if chips and salsa are in the same aisle.

Additionally, since all payment processing is done before the customer arrives, Walmart does not have to employ cashiers. That would allow Walmart to expand its grocery sales with minimal human resources expense. Good news for the company’s bottom line; not so great for its employees.

Some businesses, like NYC-based delivery service FreshDirect, already offer a pick-up service like this, but not on the scale — and not with the financial backing — of a company like Walmart.