Walmart Canada Announces $3.5 Billion for “Stores of the Future”

The major retailer will modernize current stores, focus on micro fulfillment, scale its blockchain tech, and more.

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Need to Know 

  • Walmart has announced a $3.5 billion investment in “stores of the future” for Canadian locations.
  • The retail giant will focus on modernizing “smart” stores, improving the pickup experience, building more distribution centers, and using tech to improve distribution capabilities.
  • This announcement is the latest in a series of tech investments aimed at streamlining operations.
  • In the past, Walmart has experimented with micro-fulfillment, cashierless stores, AI-driven optimizations, and blockchain.

Analysis

Walmart Canada has announced a major investment in its omnichannel strategy and distribution centers. The major retailer is committing $3.5 billion to support growth and improve both the online and in-store shopping experience. 

The multi-billion dollar investment will focus on four main areas: modernizing “smarter” stores, accelerating the omnichannel offering by improving the pickup experience, building two new micro-fulfillment centers (and renovating an existing center), and investing in technology to ramp up distribution center capabilities. 

Walmart’s modernized “stores of the future” will feature “accelerated digitization” such as electronic shelf labels, shelf scanners to monitor product volumes, robotics, computer vision cameras to minimize touches and maximize efficiency and accuracy, and a new checkout experience to reduce touchpoints, which itself includes tap-to-pay, bigger self-checkout and mobile payment technology to allow customers to checkout anywhere in the store with the help of an associate. One of these stores is already being piloted in Levittown, N.Y.

The improved omnichannel offering will include an expansion of the “Walmart Pickup” locations and investing in tech that will accelerate the pickup experience. Walmart will also pilot “hybrid” locations which will have micro-fulfillment centers in the back, and is integrating “next-generation automation and technology” that includes “machine learning” into its distribution centers. This investment plays directly into what competitors are focusing on—grocery giant Loblaw is also piloting new and improved fulfillment centers in order to keep up with the $1 billion in e-commerce sales they hit last year. 

And the retail giant’s investment in tech means launching “world-leading artificial intelligence software in partnership with o9 to more accurately predict and better plan volume to ensure Walmart’s customers get what they want, when they want.” 

“The retail business is as dynamic as ever and this investment ensures we’re developing a supply chain that is the envy of the world. The better the supply chain, the quicker our customers can get the products they want. This investment will transform our supply chain and create hundreds of Canadian construction jobs along the way,” said John Bayliss, SVP of logistics and supply chain for Walmart Canada.

As part of this investment, Walmart is also expanding its blockchain payments technology to enhance Canadian supply chain operations. 

In recent months, Walmart has launched some big tech-based initiatives to keep up with competitors like Amazon. 

In March, they expanded their in-home delivery program, allowing Walmart employees to deliver groceries and stock customers’ fridges, without them ever needing to be at home. 

In January, they opened their first cashierless store in Coral Way, Florida, and are now trialing a self-checkout-only store experience at a location in Arkansas.

Walmart Canada operates over 400 stores nationwide, serving over 1.2 million Canadian customers per day. 

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