Walmart Canada’s Store of the Future Comes to Life in New Urban Supercentre Store

Walmart Urban Supercentre Store Concept

Walmart Urban Supercentre Store Concept

By Emily McCullough

Recently, Walmart launched a new “urban Supercentre concept” in Toronto at its Stockyards location. It is the first location of this kind in Canada and presents insight into Walmart’s vision for the store of the future. The 139,000 square feet store has undergone a transformation to test out different concepts that will appear in stores across Canada and in other markets if they prove to be successful.  

Speaking about the new store concept Lee Tappenden, President and CEO of Walmart Canada said: "with our new Urban Supercentre Concept, we're continuing to position ourselves as a leader in store design and retail innovation.”  "We're introducing new partners, testing new and innovative technologies, integrating eCommerce with bricks-and-mortar and updating our assortment to improve the customer shopping experience and to appeal more to young families in urban markets." Walmart’s actions within the its new urban superstore concept show that it believes the store of the future will be a mix of self-service, tech as well as great partnerships that not only add novelty to its stores but helps it compete better against established competitors. Here is what Walmart has been up to in its concept store.

1. Self-service is a key feature of Walmart’s urban Supercentre store concept.  Customers have the option of scanning items themselves as they shop.  Using the “My Walmart App” customers can scan the barcodes of products as they are shopping. They can also download digital coupons to ensure they are getting the best deal.  Once customers are finished shopping they enter a “fast lane” where all they need to do is click “checkout” on their app.  Once they have performed that operation a barcode is generated which they scan then their credit card is charged.  Before leaving the store customers bag their own groceries and present their receipt to a sales associate that is attending to the fast lane.  Speaking about the changes to the checkout process Paula Bonner, an SVP at Walmart Canada said: “we knew checkout was an area where customers weren’t happy with us. This app is all about providing speed for the customer.”

Shoppers who prefer not to use the scan and go technology can always checkout in a traditional manner.  This store has reduced the number of sales associate staffed checkout lanes from 12 to six and it has also increased the number of self-checkout stations from nine to 18.  To accommodate individuals who are using their phones to shop, Walmart provides free wi-fi and phone chargers. 

Scan and go technology is not new.  Several retailers are experimenting with it to see if customers will adopt it. Walmart experimented with scan and go technology in 125 stores in the U.S. but it was scraped due to scalability issues and low customer participation. But Walmart stores in the UK and China are still using scan and go technology indicating that wider adoption is possible.

2. As part of this concept store Walmart did not stop at adding more technology it also decided to bridge eCommerce with brick-and-mortar by adding a section dedicated to items such as clothing that previously was only available online. Walmart’s online vendors will be able to set up popup shops in this area to showcase their clothing in a bricks and mortar environment.  

3. One of the key issues that Walmart is trying to tackle with this new store initiative is traffic. In the first quarter of 2019 Walmart Canada’s traffic declined by 0.5% vs. a year ago for the first time in two years.  In a bid to drive more traffic to its stores Walmart is focusing on partnerships.  Walmart partnered with Chinese retailer Miniso which sells electronics, cosmetics, stationary, toys and home goods at low prices. Miniso is now selling these products within a store within a store space at this new location. Miniso has ambitious expansion plans that include opening 6,000 new stores by 2020 and Walmart is a great retailer to help fuel that expansion. Walmart has also located Freshii, a UPS store and Naoki Sushi within this store.   Walmart’s vision of being a one stop shop will help to drive traffic as consumers chose to make a stop at Walmart to access these vendors and they may then pick up items at Walmart before they leave.

In an attempt to compete better with thriving dollar stores like Dollarama, Walmart also added its largest and only full service Party Shop to this location where families can purchase all of their birthday party supplies right after they go grocery shopping.  The introduction of Miniso and the full service party shop are attempts by Walmart to capitalize on the growth of discount stores and Walmart’s partnership with Miniso also helps it to capitalize on the trend of popular Asian retailers, such as Muji, that sell cheap apparel, household and lifestyle items, that have been moving into the Canadian market.  


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