Walmart doubles personal shopper count for holiday season

With higher use of online shopping expected this holiday season due to the pandemic, Walmart has more than doubled its number of personal shoppers for fulfilling pickup and delivery orders. Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product at Walmart, said in a blog post this week that the Bentonville, […]

With higher use of online shopping expected this holiday season due to the pandemic, Walmart has more than doubled its number of personal shoppers for fulfilling pickup and delivery orders.

Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product at Walmart, said in a blog post this week that the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer will have more than 157,000 personal shoppers “ready to fill grocery orders for all the big meals, as well as pick holiday gifts and stocking stuffers for all.” Items ordered for pickup or delivery carry the same prices as those on the shelf in stores, he noted.

“This holiday, more than ever, we know how important it will be for customers to use time-saving services like pickup and delivery, and we’re prepared to serve them with more than double the number of personal shoppers versus last year,” Ward said in the blog.

“It makes me proud to think six years ago we started with only a few hundred personal shoppers, and today they’re crucial to providing services like pickup and delivery that our customers have come to see as essential,” he added. “Our stores have really focused on convenience over the last few years, and that’s allowed us to quickly shift to the changing needs of our customers.”

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Walmart’s online fulfillment options include free in-store and curbside pickup, home delivery and Express Delivery.

Walmart’s contactless online fulfillment options include free curbside pickup, in which orders are loaded into customers’ vehicles; home delivery, for a $7.95 or $9.95 fee per order; and Express Delivery in two hours or less, which costs $10 in addition to the existing delivery charge. Customers signing up for the new Walmart+ membership program, which costs $98 annually or $12.95 monthly, can get free unlimited delivery, among other benefits. Ward reported that Walmart+ pays for itself in two deliveries per month.

“Given customers’ lives were busier even before COVID-19, roles like the personal shopper will continue to be important parts of our business,” he said. “We’re excited about the work they’re doing and the service they’ll provide to our customers, now and into the future.”

Walmart on Tuesday reported that third-quarter e-commerce sales for Walmart U.S. jumped 79% from a year ago and contributed about 570 basis points to its comp-sales growth of 6.3%. Executives said growth was strong in pickup, delivery and direct-to-home channels.

“Our merchant and replenishment teams are working hard to make sure we have products available for our customers,” Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon told analysts in a conference call on Tuesday. “The team is being flexible when it comes to meeting demand. For example, we’ve turned on nearly 2,500 stores to fulfill online orders. We can quickly flex this number as the holiday season progresses to help relieve pressure on our e-commerce fulfillment centers if necessary.

“This holiday season will obviously be unique,” he explained. “While many family gatherings may be smaller, we do believe families want to decorate, celebrate and enjoy food and gifts. They want a sense of normalcy, and our traditions help bring some joy and comfort to this difficult year. With the importance of social distancing in mind, we planned several holiday shopping events this year so customers can enjoy special items and pricing over a longer period of time and shop in the way that’s best for them.”

In the United States, Walmart reaches about 90% of the population within a 10-mile radius of its stores and omnichannel services, according to Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner. In the third quarter, the company added curbside pickup to 230 more stores, bringing the total to 3,700 stores with that capability, he said.

“Then we’ve got 2,700 stores that are now offering what we describe as Express Delivery,” Furner said in the analyst call. “And we have examples, even just this week, of customers who are getting their groceries, from the time of order [to] delivery in under a half-hour. So we’re really excited about the ability to have services like that all across the country in big cities and small cities and everything in between.”

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