STORE SPACES

First Look: Walmart’s next-gen test stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart is testing new features and technology in two recently-opened supercenters in Tomball, Texas, and Lake Nona, Florida. The stores were fully reimagined — from layout to building and environmental enhancements to added technology — with a goal of improving the shopping experience and making it easier for customers to get what they need as quickly as possible. Here is a peak at the changes:

• New Layout: The chain used customer shopping behavior to reimagine the layout for the two stores. For example, services like the beauty salon and tech repair are adjacent to relevant merchandise. Health and wellness departments are consolidated to create a single destination. Baby, toys, kids' apparel and kids' shoes form a single destination to ease the shopping journey.

• Scan & Go: Scan & Go technology that works both on personal smartphones and Walmart-provided handheld devices is being tested in the two locations. Customers are greeted on their way into the store by a large bank of Scan & Go wands, and new digital produce scales have been added to make scanning weighable items much easier. Scan & Go fast pass checkout lanes allow customers to bypass the traditional checkout process

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• SmartLife: New interactive projection technology allows customers to learn about connected devices (such as Google Home, Apple TV, Nest, baby monitors and connected thermostats) and get answers to what is important to them. Since images are projected onto tables and walls, there’s no chance of accidentally damaging a product, and the product details can be updated more quickly through this new platform. This technology is found in the entertainment section of the store, as well as in hardware, baby, and health and wellness for relevant department items.

• Integrated Pickup: Shoppers can use the outside drive-thru to pick up weekly groceries and also their prescriptions and Walmart.com orders.

• Extended Aisles: Step into the Tomball Supercenter and you’ll find interactive screens offering access to an extended curated selection of online-only items in almost 100 categories. Customers can order products, pay with the rest of their basket at checkout and pick up two days later.

• Appointment Setting and Ordering Technology: The two stores are testing a new appointment and ordering kiosk system in the deli area that allows shoppers to place their order, go shopping, then come back to quickly pick it up. If the deli test goes well, the feature could be expanded to pharmacy, auto care center, beauty salon or anywhere ordering and appointment setting occurs.

• Next-Gen Call Buttons: Shoppers press a Wi-Fi-connected call button and wearable GPS-enabled devices alert associates that assistance is needed. Associates wearing these devices are trained in specific store areas and are on call to help in the furniture, paint, fabrics, sporting goods and bikes areas of the store.

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STORE SPACES

Apple launches new store initiative

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Apple wants to give its shoppers more reasons to visit its stores than to make a purchase or visit the Genius Bar.

The tech giant has launched a new initiative, called “Today at Apple," in all 495 Apple stores. The program features more than 60 hands-on sessions in a range of topics, including photography, music, art, design and coding. According to Apple, the classes will be led by highly-trained team members, and, in select cities, world-class artists, photographers and musicians. There will be special programs for families and educators.

The new program is part of retail chief's Angela Ahrendts effort to reinvent the Apple store experience. Apple expects the classes to reinforce engagement among current and potential customers as it looks to connect with shoppers beyond their need to purchase a new laptop or visiting the Genius Bar for repairs.

“At the heart of every Apple Store is the desire to educate and inspire the communities we serve,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior VP, retail. ‘Today at Apple’ is one of the ways we’re evolving our experience to better serve local customers and entrepreneurs. We’re creating a modern-day town square, where everyone is welcome in a space where the best of Apple comes together to connect with one another, discover a new passion, or take their skill to the next level."

The company’s existing in-store tutorial classes will continue, but content will be redesigned under the new format. To deliver the new programs, each store will receive new mobile display screens designed specifically for “Today at Apple” sessions, as well as updated seating and sound.

To find out which classes will be available over a two-week location at Apple locations, customers can visit the Today at Apple webpage, and click on a category icon.

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REI in gym partnership

BY Marianne Wilson

Outdoor retailer REI is setting up shop in a fast-growing gym niche.

REI and Momentum TM Indoor Climbing are launching REI Co-op Climb, which will serve as a hub for climbing gear, programming and events at each of Momentum’s new climbing gyms. Expert instructors from REI’s Outdoor School will help Momentum members and guests gain skills and confidence through gym to crag classes.

Classes will range from beginner to advanced levels. REI members who participate in the Learn to Climb program will receive two weeks free climbing at Momentum.

REI Co-op Climb will debut inside Momentum Katy, in Katy, Texas, when the 36,000-sq.-ft. gym opens its doors on Saturday, July 15, 2017. The facility will feature 29,000 sq. ft. of rope climbing, bouldering, training walls and kids climbing. It will be able accommodate hundreds of climbers at once, and includes a 5,500-sq.-ft.cross-training area, dedicated yoga studio, locker rooms and laptop work spaces.

The 40,000-sq.-ft. Momentum Silver Street, near downtown Houston, will also feature an REI Co-op when it opens later this year. As one of the largest bouldering gyms in the county, it will host major competitions.

“REI has a rich climbing heritage thanks to our founders’ vision to be among the first to bring world class climbing equipment to the American market,” said John Sheppard, REI’s divisional VP, experiential programs and new ventures, REI, which has 147 stores nationwide. “We are excited to partner with Momentum to introduce REI Co-op Climb. These gyms are an important resource for avid climbers, and they’re an onramp for getting more people into the sport.”

According to Climbing Business Journal, 188 of the 414 indoor climbing gyms in the U.S. opened between 2010 and 2016, a rate of growth that is projected to continue.

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