Wal-Mart has begun offering a grocery shopping service that allows customers to order food items online and have the goods placed in their vehicles at designated times throughout the day — and at least one Wal-Mart location in Greater Waco is poised to take part in the program.
The Wal-Mart at Franklin Avenue and New Road will launch its participation with a grand opening-type event between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. June 20, manager Doug Madden said, adding he has assigned five staffers, a department manager and an assistant manager to the delivery effort.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Madden, adding he has been training his team with mock orders for five weeks. He said he thinks the service will prove popular with busy people who don’t have time to shop for groceries themselves, or those who may simply enjoy tackling the task online.
H-E-B, the dominant grocery chain in Waco, is considering a comparable service locally, but is not ready to launch it, spokeswoman Tamra Jones said.
Wal-Mart’s new service — which has been tested in several markets around the country, including three stores in the Austin area — requires orders with a minimum value of $30, but it does not charge to have employees roam the store to fill orders and place them in the vehicles of customers upon their arrival.
Customers start the service by going online to www.walmart.com/groceries, according to the company website.
“I believe this will prove beneficial on several levels,” said Madden, adding that parents with sick or small children at home may find the service appealing. “Or maybe someone realizes he or she is running low on several items. They can call their spouse at work and say, ‘Honey, can you get bread, milk, eggs and this or that on the way home?’ ”
The Wal-Mart on Franklin Avenue will become the first in Greater Waco to offer the service, and will fill pickup orders between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily. The Wal-Mart on Interstate 35 in Bellmead will follow suit after a $750,000 interior renovation has been completed, probably in late summer.
“We think it’s going to work out nicely,” said Bronscha Harris, who oversees the store in Bellmead. “We actually pushed back the start date since we’re going through this remodel. But I really believe moms with kids will appreciate what we’re doing, as will some members of the older community.”
Wal-Mart Stores did not include the store on Hewitt Drive in the initial rollout of online grocery ordering, but Wal-Mart sources said the service likely will spread citywide if it is well received. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the Wal-Mart under construction at I-35 and Sun Valley Boulevard in Hewitt will get involved.
Madden said information he received shows that Wal-Mart stores involved in the test runs are receiving an average of 30 online orders daily.
Promoting the service, the Wal-Mart website says, “We’ll do the shopping, Experts pick the freshest items or your money back. We’ll even load your car in minutes.”
Elsewhere, it proclaims, “Pickup is free. No service fees or markups. Get the same Every Day Low Prices found in stores.”
H-E-B is not ignoring the trend toward making grocery shopping more convenient, even if it means not setting foot inside a brick-and-mortar store.
On May 25, it launched an on- demand grocery delivery service in its hometown of San Antonio, collaborating with an app-based grocery delivery service called Shipt. A news release from Alabama-based Shipt said H-E-B plans to expand the service to Houston, Austin, Dallas and more markets this year.
In addition to providing grocery delivery from H-E-B stores 24 hours per day, Shipt also will partner with H-E-B-owned Central Market to provide on-demand grocery delivery in San Antonio. Customers will be able to select and purchase items through Shipt’s mobile app and schedule delivery as quickly as one hour after entering an order.
Separately, H-E-B late last year began a national delivery service in which it ships non-perishable items to customers in the 48 contiguous states. Customers can go online and choose from among 50,000 food items, including H-E-B’s own Central Market Organics and Cafe Olé Taste of Texas Coffees.
It even has created a “Totally Texas” page that highlights such Texas- centric products as Whataburger Whatafries and Austin’s Franklin’s Barbecue Sauce.
Shipping fees vary with the size of the order, but average between $5 and $10. H-E-B also delivers to military bases as part of the program.
Wal-Mart is not limiting its delivery service to curbside visitors. It is piloting a program in Denver and Phoenix using the Uber and Lyft ride services. A personal shopper will select the products a shopper has chosen online, and use these increasingly popular means of transportation to deliver the items at a designated time.
It also quietly launched a pilot program in March using Deliv to deliver general merchandise and groceries to Sam’s Club business clients in Miami.
Industry sources say Wal-Mart is stepping up its investment in e-commerce to counter threats by Amazon and its thriving AmazonFresh grocery delivery service.
Scott Markley, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said 90 percent of those using the service so far are repeat customers, meaning Wal-Mart is gaining their trust. He added that the chain is receiving requests “from thousands of customers from all over the country, asking for us to start this service where they live.”
IBISWorld, which specializes in market research, says online purchasing of groceries is booming and will grow to $9.4 billion next year, up from $6 billion this year.