Walmart announced this week it will spend an estimated $173 million dollars in Florida through the opening and remodeling of 34 stores, as well as the launch or expansion of several innovations customers like.
Southwest Florida Walmart Supercenters on the list for remodels this year include the Walmart at 4150 Tamiami Trail in South Venice, Walmart at 2931 S. McCall Road in Englewood, and Walmart at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston.
Christina Morton, a media specialist working on behalf of Walmart, said the renovations should be complete sometime this summer.
But it’s the new technology that has Walmart excited.
There’s the new grocery pick-up tower, auto pick up service, automated scanner, and R2D2-style cleaners that are being rolled out.
What technologies will make it into which local stores is apparently a closely guarded secret. Morton said that information will be released closer to roll-out of the new technology.
New or expanded servicesHere’s a list of some of the innovations, provided by Walmart:
Grocery Pickup: Shop online. Then quickly pick up groceries without having to leave you car — at no additional cost. Walmart plans to expand the popular program to more than 72 additional stores across the state by the end of the year.
The company also recently introduced Walmart Voice Order, which allows customers to simply say “Hey Google, talk to Walmart” and the Google Assistant will add items directly to their Walmart Grocery cart.
Grocery Delivery: Walmart’s convenient grocery delivery service is also expanding. This year, Walmart plans to add the service to 63 stores, increasing its coverage area in the state.
Pickup Towers: Walmart Pickup Towers are 16-feet tall, high-tech vending machines capable of fulfilling a customer’s online order in less than a minute. Once the order is ready, you step up to the Pickup Tower and scan the barcode sent to your smartphone to retrieve your item. Walmart plans to add 36 Pickup Towers to stores across the state.
Autonomous Shelf Scanner: These scanners use automation to scan shelves and help identify where in-stock levels are low, prices are wrong, or labels are missing. Walmart plans to expand the technology to 32 additional stores across the state.
FAST Unloader: Today, products are unloaded as they arrive at the store through a complex, highly manual process that has seen little innovation over the last 50 years. A new system in Walmart backrooms, known as FAST, automatically scans and sorts items that come off trucks based on priority and department, allowing associates to spend less time unloading in the backroom. Walmart plans to expand the technology to 88 stores across the state this year.
Autonomous Floor Scrubber: The autonomous floor scrubber uses assisted autonomy technology to perform the task of cleaning and scrubbing the concrete floors in stores. The company plans to expand the technology to 112 stores across the state this year.
Job killer, or job maker?There’s been some concern expressed that all the automation could lead to fewer jobs, but that’s not the picture Walmart is painting. Here’s their response to that concern:
“Customer habits and shopping expectations are changing at an incredibly fast pace. To meet the rapidly changing demands of Walmart customers, we are embracing technology to empower our people, so they can focus on helping busy families with better, faster service that makes shopping easier. That technology is automating pieces of work or tasks, rather than entire jobs.
“The tasks being automated are generally things that we struggle to find, hire and retain associates to do. As we’ve started changing the job to take out some of that routine work, it’s becoming easier to find people to do those jobs.
“Also worth noting is that Walmart has added roughly 40,000 ‘new retail’ jobs over the last year and a half. In our stores, some of those positions include personal shoppers for Online Grocery Pickup, self-checkout hosts and customer hosts. Some of these jobs did not exist a short time ago.”
“Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual,” said John Crecelius, senior vice president of Central Operations for Walmart U.S. “It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”