Walmart has opened its latest in a series of massive e-commerce fulfillment centers, this time in Davenport, FL. The new facility is on a 50-acre campus and comprises two buildings totaling more than 2.2 million square feet, according to a company press release.
The retailer said the center aims to bring more than 1,500 jobs to Polk County, FL, and with millions of inventory items on site, will enable Walmart to support faster fulfilling and shipping of online orders directly to customers or to stores for free pickup.
The center also contains a pick module system involving more than 33 miles of shelving, and dock doors which can withstand 120-mph winds. The opening of the center is part of a broader commitment to invest in Florida operations, as Walmart plans to open nine new stores across the state and remodel more than 40 store locations there by early 2018. Walmart did not respond to request for comment from Retail Dive regarding further details.
You don't need to know about all of Walmart's e-commerce-related acquisitions to understand the retailer has been making a major push on that front in recent months. Walmart CFO Brett Biggs said in a speech just last month that Walmart has expanded its online inventory from 10 million products to 50 million products over the last year.
The opening of the new e-commerce fulfillment center helps to answer the next big question: Where did Walmart put all that inventory? The vast, new Florida location is one of several such facilities Walmart has around the country, all of them dedicated to filling growing e-commerce orders.
This network of behemoth facilities allows Walmart to be more confident about trying different methods of getting those products into the hands of the online customers who order them. The retailer has been experimenting with programs such as allowing customers to pick up orders in stores. Having massive, dedicated facilities can help Walmart meet the costly, growing demands for these kinds of flexible options, as well as the increasing demand for free shipping and one-day shipping.
Walmart's efforts to increase its e-commerce capabilities are already paying off. The company reported that e-commerce sales increased by a whopping 63% in the first quarter of this year. That number is proof Walmart is executing well on the e-commerce front, but it also puts additional pressure on the retailer to continue aiming high. The real target for Walmart is Amazon, which has a much bigger e-commerce fulfillment network (at least 100 warehouses), and is still leaps ahead of Walmart as a fulfillment innovator.
For Walmart, that means there is not much room for error. To compete, it will need to construct a fulfillment infrastructure to support speedy and reliable fulfillment of e-commerce orders as this part of its business continues to ramp up. The Florida facility is another step toward that, but don't be surprised if we see more mammoth e-commerce fulfillment centers from Walmart to come.