Walmart on Thursday opened six grocery pickup locations in Seattle, bringing the number of such spots nationwide to 1,000, the retail giant announced in a company blog post Wednesday.
The service enables customers to order groceries online and pick them up at their local Walmart store without leaving their cars, and was first piloted in Denver in 2013.
Walmart also launched is holiday layaway program and announced its "hot toys" of the season, based on feedback from a panel of kids ranging in age from 18 months to 12 years old. The list includes interactive toys, collectibles, toys that keep kids moving and toys inspired by favorite movie and TV characters, according to another company blog post. Nearly a quarter of the items are exclusive to Walmart, the company said.
Since its first experiments with free pickup of online orders, Walmart has swiftly expanded them to more cities and beyond grocery. Walmart’s newly assertive omnichannel push is based squarely on providing customers with "always low prices" and convenience to save people both time and money, executives have emphasized in recent months.
The retail giant has also sweetened the omnichannel pot with a discounts for online orders that are picked up in store, a somewhat awkward proposition considering that most of its customers still shop brick-and-mortar and the offer could get some negative blow back. While that policy is a boon to the company's e-commerce efforts — a segment the retailer has aggressively expanded of late, not least by paying more than $3 billion for Jet last year — it also means its brick-and-mortar customers are paying more, something that has bedeviled Walmart in the past.
For years, shoppers expressed frustration that Walmart’s price-matching policy applied only against local competitors within the vicinity of its physical stores, and that shoppers had to buy products online in order to obtain Walmart’s web prices. In 2014, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. Greg Foran finally reversed that policy, allowing online price matching in all stores — a policy that extended to the retailer's own online prices.
Meanwhile, Walmart is emphasizing the budget side of its holiday offerings by launching layover services now, giving customers time to plan their giving. There is no opening fee to start a layaway account, according to Walmart. Customers must put down 10% (or $10, whichever is greater), but can put items as low as $10 on layaway with a $50 minimum basket. They have until Dec. 11 to pay off their account.
One potential sticking point for parents is that, according to Walmart, this year it "doesn’t matter if the kids have been naughty or nice."
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2017 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page and sign up for our holiday newsletter for more stories.