Walmart has now entered into the small-format store business and opened doors to its first convenience store and gas station in Bentonville, Arkansas earlier this week. Walmart To Go offers typical convenience store groceries and snack options — with the addition of a gas station with six pump canopies and an outdoor picnic area.
“It is very much a hybrid. I would consider it a food store that sells fuel,” said senior vice president of small formats for Walmart, Debra Layton. President and CEO of Walmart, Bill Simon, also said Walmart’s “small-store expansion … including fresh, pharmacy and fuel, will help us usher in the next generation of retail.”
Walmart To Go tests a growing element of the retail market. The project had been in planning phase for more than a year before it officially opened up March 19. The doors to this first Walmart To Go convenience store and gas station had opened up for customers on March 15, but it had been without much ado. For the time being, the Bentonville store operates only from 5 am to 10 pm daily.
Along with traditional convenience store regulars such as fresh pizzas, sandwiches and fresh fruit, Walmart To Go has partnered with Bentonville Butcher & Deli to offer quick service breakfast, lunch and dinner deli counter. Beverages also include typical convenience favorites like a full coffee bar, milkshakes and soda fountains, along with beer and wine.
The store also has kiosks for fresh flowers, Hallmark cards and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, along with an ATM. True to the convenience store theme, Walmart To Go’s interior resembles one with cashiers in a corral and a wide range of tobacco products displayed behind them.
Walmart has entered into an already well-established sector of a gas station business connected to a convenience store. With more than 6,600 convenience stores/gasoline stations owned and operated by Marathon Petroleum Corp., in 18 states and more than 2,000 stores/gasoline stations owned and operated by CST Brands Inc. in the United States and Canada, big oil giants may give Walmart To Go a run for their money.
The small-format store would continue the legacy of Walmart and offer its promise of low-prices, a factor that is likely to be a threat for other, particularly sole proprietor-owned, convenience stores, which charge extra to maintain their own profit margins and for the convenience they provide to the customers in buying essential products and food items without the hassle of going into a larger store.
Along with their large retailer stores, Walmart additionally operates 20 small-format, 15,000 square feet, Walmart Express stores. The retail giant is also testing several Walmart on Campus, a 2,500-square-foot, college-based convenience store-type retail outlets.
With the opening of the first convenience store and gas station Walmart To Go, the retail giant has already stepped into small-format business. How far it will fare remains to be seen. For the time being, Layton said that they have “no plans to roll out the new format any further.” However, a website with the domain walmarttogo.com may be on the cards in the near future.
By Faryal Najeeb