Walmart makes major pandemic-induced changes to several Gulf Coast stores.
Signaling it believes the pandemic has perhaps permanently altered the way people shop for food and other everyday items, Walmart has made significant changes and upgrades to six of its stores in the region.
Taking the curbside pickup trend a big step further, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant has installed a 16-foot “pickup tower” at its Walmart Supercenter in North Port, south Sarasota County. These devices — essentially oversized, high-tech vending machines — allow customers to submit an order via walmart.com and then pick it up without setting foot in the store or interacting with on-site staff members.
The pickup towers, according to a press release, are equipped with scanners that read a unique code sent to the shopper’s smartphone. Then a locker opens and the customer picks up his or her order. Pickup towers have been installed at some 700 Walmart stores nationwide, making the option available to about 40% of the U.S. population.
In addition to innovations like the pickup tower at the North Port Walmart Supercenter, the six Gulf Coast stores — the others are in east Manatee County/Braden River, Brooksville, Largo, New Port Richey and Wimauma — have been remodeled with wider aisles in grocery departments and additional contact-free checkout stations.
“Our customers will still be able to find their favorite products at everyday low prices combined with convenient new features like our Pickup Tower for Walmart.com orders,” states Dale Barghausen, store manager at the North Port Walmart Supercenter, in the release. “It really feels like a brand-new store since the remodel was completed. We’ve received incredible feedback from customers so far and are excited for them to continue to explore these new store enhancements.”
Walmart employs 106,375 people in Florida, the release states. In its 2020 financial year, it spent $7.4 billion with Florida suppliers, supporting 87,793 supplier jobs.