Walmart to expand online grocery delivery

Gladys Abbott
March 15, 2018

Walmart announced plans Wednesday (March 14) to expand its online grocery delivery service to more than 100 USA metropolitan areas by the end of 2018, making it available to more than 40 percent of US households according to the company.

Walmart's online grocery delivery is only available in six markets now, but that is set to quickly change.

Walmart now offers store pickup at more than 1,200 stores and plans to add an additional 1,000 locations this year. It also comes at a time of intense competition within the grocery space and follows Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods previous year. Orders can also be placed via a Walmart Grocery app.

Ward declined to directly address rival delivery services. However, those tests must have been successful as it is expanding the offer to more areas.

The low-price retailer has the scale and resources to bring significant value to shoppers.

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In February Amazon unveiled free two-hour delivery of Whole Foods purchases for Prime members in four markets - Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas and Virginia Beach. A Walmart spokesperson said, "The fee is simple - no surprises, no subscription, no per-item fee or price markup". This is a tricky message to convey to shoppers, but it's vitally important.

The grocery delivery business for Walmart will have the support of several partners that includes Uber, the company announced Wednesday.

Already, Whole Foods partnership with Amazon has enabled customers to order groceries delivered through Prime Now. Amazon also has spent over a decade trying to build up its AmazonFresh grocery delivery service, but so far seen limited success. They're the same price as in Walmart stores. The so-called "last mile" is the most expensive part of the equation, and still very much a work in progress for retailers across multiple industries, including food. Walmart said its personal shoppers "must complete a three week training program learning how to select the freshest produce and the best cuts of meat for online grocery customers".

In the past, Walmart has more heavily pushed grocery pickup as the option that made the best sense for its cost conscious customers who don't want to pay delivery fees.

Tom Ward, Walmart's VP of digital operations, told reporters in a conference call that "workers are moving into that position on a weekly basis, as more Walmart stores are outfitted to fulfill orders via its website", Thomas and Hirsch report. "We're serving our customers in ways that no one else can".

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