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Consumer 360: This could be interesting

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart.com EVP Steve Nave and online grocer Peapod’s COO Mike Brennan are slated to share the stage at Nielsen’s upcoming Consumer 360 conference in Orlando June 20 to 22 during a session moderated by Adam Lashinsky, Fortune’s editor-at-large.

The session has the potential to be extremely interesting considering that Walmart recently began experimenting with home delivery of groceries in the San Jose area and already operates a successful home delivery business with in the United Kingdom through its Asda subsidiary. Meanwhile, Peapod is an early innovator in the online grocery space and was founded more than 20 years ago. Today, the company is majority owned by Royal Ahold, which operates stores in the Northeast under the Stop & Shop and Giant banners.

Nave joined Walmart.com in a finance role in late 2000 and has served in his current capacity since early last year with responsibilities that include accelerating the firm’s growth rate, improving the customer experience and developing innovative multi-channel retail capabilities. Prior to joining Walmart.com, Nave spent five years with Ernst & Young providing audit and tax service to retail, consumer products and technology clients.

Brennan is a P&G alum who left the packaged goods company for the A.T. Kearney consulting firm where he served as a principal prior to joining Peapod in 1987. During his tenure at Peapod, Brennan has at various times overseen marketing, transportation, human resource, customer service, merchandising and technology.

While Peapod has been at the online grocery game a long time, Walmart’s recent initiative is clearly an experiment worth watching, as it feeds into the company’s desire to serve shoppers in urban markets. According to an interesting story in the New York Times about the service, Walmart packs orders in tote bags at a San Jose area store and delivers the goods in refrigerated trucks the next day. According to the article, the groceries available lean toward prepackaged goods. Customers cannot order beef to specifications, for instance — they must buy precut meat in a range of packages. And in the produce category, while fresh mangoes and bananas are available, oranges and lemons come in bags of several pounds rather than individually.

Walmart is wise to begin experiment with home delivery, especially since it already possesses the expertise internationally, albeit in a very different market. The company was also wise to grant an interview to the New York Times thereby ensuring widespread exposure for the experimental service as hundreds if not thousands of media outlets, bloggers and assorted content aggregators picked up on the news. Another stroke of genius involves the website for the service, which requires visitors to enter their city, state and zip to see if the service is available in their area. Asking for such information enables the company to gain insight into markets where shoppers might be receptive to the service and could help determine an eventual rollout strategy.

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Bentonville landmark due to reopen

BY CSA STAFF

The Walmart Visitor Center in downtown Bentonville is set to reopen on May 21 after undergoing extensive renovations, which means the new facility will be able to accommodate the thousands of Walmart employees who will descend on the town for the company’s annual meeting on June 3.

The new and larger center is still located on the downtown Bentonville Square where Sam Walton opened his first five-and-dime store and is still dedicated to the heritage of the founder and history of the company, but aside from the location and mission, the new facility will be a major upgrade with some significant changes.

Additions will include a working five-and-dime store, complete with vintage toys, games and candies, and the Spark Café for casual sidewalk coffees, baked goods and treats. Perhaps most importantly, the center will introduce an expanded gallery where visitors can view a variety of new and restored items significant to Walmart’s history. There will be new interactive digital displays, video and audio clips of the company’s history and a timeline that will highlight the early years of retail in Walton’s personal and professional life while paying tribute to the associates and family members who contributed to the company’s growth and success.

“Preserving this historic landmark and redesigning and archiving one of the greatest stories in business history has been both a humbling and rewarding experience for everyone involved,” said Alan Dranow, director of brand communication for Walmart.

“After listening, planning and sharing information, we believe the next generation of visitors, associates and neighbors to the center will experience a much deeper understanding of Walmart and enjoy a little taste of Americana while they’re here.”

Some things won’t change. Visitors will still see a replica of Walton’s iconic Ford pickup and fully preserved office and desk.

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Michaels alerts customers to potential debit- and credit-card fraud

BY CSA STAFF

Irving, Texas — Michaels Stores has learned that PIN pad tampering may have occurred in its Chicago-area stores and that customer credit- and debit-card information may have been compromised.

The company was contacted this week by banking and law enforcement authorities after some fraudulent debit-card transactions were reported over the weekend. Authorities believe the fraudulent transactions may be linked to legitimate transactions in Chicago-area Michaels stores.

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