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Walmart plans major store renovation, consumer upgrades

Customers enter the Walmart store in Baxter. The store will be part of a $35 million investment in 10 Minnesota stores to offer upgrades and consumer innovations, such as online grocery orders available for curbside pickup. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 4
Walmart is adding more options to appeal to customers who want to order online groceries and then pickup orders without leaving their car. Photo from Walmart2 / 4
Mobile Express Scan & Go lets customers scan their purchases while they shop and they can pay directly on their smartphones with no waiting in line at the register. Photo from Walmart3 / 4
Pickup Towers serve customers who order online. Shoppers can place their order online and choose the Pickup Tower at checkout, scan a bar code at the store and pickup the item right there and go. Photo from Walmart4 / 4

Walmart plans to spend an estimated $35 million over the next year in Minnesota in upgrades and consumer innovations, including the store in Baxter.

Last week, Walmart reported the Baxter store will be one of 10 stores included in a rollout of several in-store and online innovations aimed at saving customers time and money.

The spend is part of Walmart's total capital expenditures guidance of about $11 billion for fiscal year 2019, which was outlined last October at the company's annual meeting for the investment community and reiterated in February, Walmart reported.

Walmart is adding an online Grocery Pickup, a Mobile Express Scan & Go and Pickup Towers.

Grocery Pickup

• Minnesota customers will be able to order Walmart groceries online and pick them up without ever leaving their car, the company reported. Customers shop for the groceries online, place the order for same-day pickup and at the store, employees will load their car. Decades ago some grocery stores gave customers the option of buying in the store and then picking up the groceries curbside with employees loading the produce. This takes it to the next step and is a move that appears to be coming for multiple grocers in the near future. Walmart notes the service is free and prices through Walmart Online Grocery are the same as in-store.

• Walmart currently offers Grocery Pickup at 13 Minnesota locations and plans to roll-out approximately 14 new Grocery Pickup locations at area stores in the coming year.

Mobile Express Scan & Go

• Walmart's Mobile Express Scan & Go app allows customers to scan and bag items, including produce, while they shop and pay directly with their phones. There's no waiting in line at the register. The retailer said this rollout will be in select market and is available with Android and iOS devices. There is a Mobile Express lane for customers on their way out of the store.

• Mobile Express Scan & Go is currently offered at all Minnesota Sam's Clubs and three area Walmart stores.

• Customers see the price of individual items as they scan them along with a running total. Walmart said the running total will also help customers stay on budget.

• As part of the test, some Walmart stores have been outfitted with Scan & Go kiosks where customers can pick up easy-to-use handheld devices. This allows them to try out the service before downloading it to their phones.

Walmart Pickup Towers

• The Walmart Pickup Tower allows customers to pick up their online orders in less than a minute by scanning a barcode sent to their smartphone. Customers can order online, from their smartphones, go to the Pickup Tower kiosk at the store, scan the barcode and the package will be delivered to them at the tower.

• To use the tower, Walmart reports its customers choose from millions of items available on Walmart.com and select the Pickup option when they go to checkout online and then drop by the store to pick it up. Walmart is adding Pickup Lockers to make this option available for larger items, even TVs.

• Walmart reported it added the Pickup Towers to nearly 200 stores in 2017 to positive customer response. "In fact, more than half a million orders have been retrieved through the towers since we first introduced them," Walmart stated. "Because of this success, we're rapidly expanding this pickup program by adding more than 500 additional Pickup Towers to stores across the country, bringing the total to more than 700 by the end of the year. With this expansion, Pickup Towers will be available to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population."

The Baxter Walmart store manager could not be reached for comment.

Walmart recently reported strong comparable sales growth of 2.1 percent for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2018, which it said indicates customers are responding well to its business strategy.

"The plan is to continue improving stores and accelerating innovation during the coming year to make shopping faster and easier for customers in Minnesota," Walmart reported.

"At Walmart, we're constantly looking to invest in new technology and innovations that will improve the retail experience," said Matt Armiger, Walmart regional general manager, in a news release. "In Minnesota, we're excited that our customers are able to shop where and when they want, through our recently introduced Scan & Go and Online Grocery Pickup programs."

Other stores slated remodeling this year include: Albert Lea, Apple Valley, Fridley, Hutchinson, Monticello, Red Wing, Rochester, Sartell and Woodbury.