PINT-SIZED STORES FROM WALMART
The Walmart that opened this week on East 104th Avenue in Thornton doesn’t quite fit the big-box retailer’s typical mold.
By Walmart standards, at 4,000 square feet, it’s downright tiny.
The latest concept from the Arkansasbased retailer, Walmart Pickup with Fuel, 1650 E. 104th Ave., is one part convenience store, one part gas station and one part physical bet on the booming market for online grocery shopping.
In addition to gas pumps and your typical convenience store fare — hot coffee, cold soda and snacks galore — at Walmart prices, Walmart Pickup with Fuel is home to a dedicated drive-through for picking up grocery orders placed through Walmart’s online grocery service.
“We’re just looking for better ways to serve our customers,” said Gina Kretoski, Walmart e-commerce market coach. “The way customers shop is changing and our time is such a valuable commodity.”
The Thornton store, which celebrated its grand opening Wednesday, is just the second Walmart Pickup with Fuel nationwide. The first opened this past spring in Huntsville, Ala.
Walmart has chosen the Denver area to test new efforts before, including its initial forays into online grocery pickup. Denver is also a test market for the chain’s grocery delivery program.
“This market offers great insight for what our customers want,” Kretoski said.
Nationwide, online grocery sales are growing at a pace that far exceeds those at brick-and-mortar supermarkets, said Madeline Hurley, a lead analyst at industry research firm IBISWorld.
In recent years, online grocery sales have increased 11 percent per year on average, compared with just 1.3 percent at supermarkets, she said.
“There’s definitely a lot more growth opportunities in online grocery than there is in regular grocery stores,” Hurley said.
And while it’s still a small piece of the overall pie — online grocery revenue was expected to hit $12.3 billion to brick-and-mortar’s $600.8 billion this year, according to IBISWorld — both startups and established grocery players are getting in on the action, she said.
“Online grocery delivery has been around for a long time, but today it’s a lot more accessible and easier to use through mobile apps,” Hurley said. “The traditional stores like Safeway and others are seeing that, so they’re also investing as to not lose market share.”
In the Denver area, Walmart isn’t the only retailer to see the opportunities. A flood of food-delivery startups have entered the market in recent years, and Safeway recently launched its first fleet of online grocery delivery trucks in the metro area. King Soopers has been offering home delivery for years.
Walmart has 20 Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets in metro Denver that offer free online grocery pickup, according to the company. Walmart Pickup with Fuel, though, is the only location that also has a gas station on site, Kretoski said.
“If we offer more than one service in one location, we feel like we’re taking better care of our customers and the way they live their lives,” she said. “Customers are looking for that convenience factor.”
Online grocery pickup is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with same-day service for orders placed by 1 p.m. Orders are fulfilled at local Walmart Supercenters and delivered to Walmart Pickup with Fuel via refrigerated truck.
Customers also can have other Walmart.com items delivered there to be picked up — treadmills included, Kretoski said.
Inside, the store looks like a convenience store — there are hot dogs on roller grills, fresh doughnuts and a wall of drink options. Signs advertise “Same low price. Smaller store.”
A small selection of grocery items are also available, with an eye toward last-minute needs, Kretoski said. The store is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Outside, Pat Johnson of Northglenn pulled her Honda Civic into the grocery drive-through around 10:30 a.m. Thursday. After a brief wait, a Walmart associate loaded her trunk with bag after bag of groceries.
The retiree said she would definitely be back again this winter.
“If the weather’s bad, we can just drive here,” she said.
The newly opened Walmart Pickup with Fuel is pictured at 1650 E. 104th Ave. in Thornton. The 4,000-square-foot facility opened Wednesday. It’s the first of its kind in Colorado and only the second in the U.S. Andy Colwell, Special to The Denver Post