By Mario Toneguzzi
Retail giant Walmart Canada has unveiled what it calls its new Urban Supercentre Concept store in Toronto which integrates ecommerce, third-party licensees, state-of-the-art technology, and an updated assortment into a new bricks-and-mortar design and layout for urban markets.
The retailer’s Toronto-Stockyards location will be home for the new prototype store which is introducing “Fast Lane” - new technology that will allow customers to use the My Walmart app on their mobile device to shop and checkout quickly and seamlessly.
"With our new Urban Supercentre Concept, we're continuing to position ourselves as a leader in store design and retail innovation," said Lee Tappenden, president and CEO of Walmart Canada, in a news release. "We're introducing new partners, testing new and innovative technologies, integrating ecommerce with bricks and mortar and updating our assortment to improve the customer shopping experience and to appeal more to young families in urban markets.
"Our new concept is a symbol of what's to come in retail and demonstrates our vision for helping Canadians save money and live better, now and in the future.”
The company said a new licensee strategy reflects emerging trends and evolving customer needs, adding new partners like Freshii, MINISO, The UPS Store and The Party Shop. Also new associate positions have been added to focus on customer service, including online grocery and general merchandise pickup.
The “Fast Lane” checkout technology allows customers to scan products as they shop. Store associates – including new full- and part-time associates – work alongside state-of-the-art technology to help make shopping as easy and convenient as possible for customers, said the retailer.
A second Urban Supercentre Concept will launch in Thornhill, in Vaughan, Ontario, next year and best practices from these two stores will be used in future store renovations.
Walmart Stockyards, which first opened in January 2005, has about 300 full and part-time staff in 139,000 square feet of space. It is one of 135 Supercentres in Ontario.
Paula Bonner, Senior Vice President, Format Development, Walmart Canada, said the company has been remodelling a number of its stores over the last couple of years, spending $200 million just this year and over $1 billion over the last five years.
“This is a continuation of that learning where we’ve been focused a lot on our suburban and more rural stores and we really wanted to look at our urban stores thinking about our young millennial families and so we thought we needed to think about the customer offer for that customer and that is what this concept is all about,” she said. “It’s thinking about what is relevant for young families, young moms, today and what is the assortment they require, what is the experience they require.
“When you look at our fleet of stores, and Stockyards where we are today in Toronto is right in the heart of that urban millennial family and obviously conveniently close to our store support centre which is always important when you’re looking at doing a prototype like this.”
Features of the new Urban Supercentre Concept at Stockyards include:
With the My Walmart App customers scan items and download digital coupons on the go and store-specific deals for additional savings. The store also offers free Wi-Fi and phone chargers. When My Walmart App users are ready to check out, they enter the "Fast Lane", scan the barcode on their order, have the order charged to their credit card on file and show the receipt on their phone to the "Fast Lane" associate;
New concept stores will offer customers an array of new licensee concepts based on Walmart's evolving licensee strategy. At the Stockyards Walmart, licensee partnerships include Freshii, the Party Shop, The UPS store, MINISO, Naoki Sushi and a newly-renovated McDonald's;
A dedicated Walmart.ca section, where customers can see and shop for extended aisle products and speak with expert associates who can answer questions and assist with online orders. This area will also be used to host pop-up shops for online vendors. The new prototype also features expanded and improved pickup areas for added customer convenience both inside and outside the store;
A community hub which is a seating area where customers can eat meals, sit down with friends and family and check out a community board featuring local news, activities and events;
The grocery section has been renamed Fresh Market and carries top quality fruits and vegetables, including organics as well as 100 per cent Canadian beef, chicken, pork and seafood. The grocery department has been redesigned to include more theatre lighting and wood panel wall treatment for a market look and feel;
Two dedicated nursing rooms, a redesigned toy section and the company's largest and only full-service Party Shop;
Several innovations from previous Walmart Canada prototypes will be integrated into the Urban Supercentre Concept, including improvements to product displays, signage and floor plans; and
The staff lounge has been updated to include sofas for lounging, bar top tables, and charging stations.The Thornhill location, which will be the second with this new concept, has the same target demographic.
“As we’re remodelling our chain what we’re doing is really testing and learning various concepts,” said Bonner, adding that the company does not have a number of how many stores will eventually adopt the new Urban Supercentre Concept.
Alykhan Kanji, Vice President, Format Development, said the company did research through its customers asking them what would enable them to have a better shopping experience.
“They gave a lot of their feedback and that has been incorporated into the design itself,” he said.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: email@example.com.