Walmart pickup grocery service is a big hit

With a preschooler and baby, grocery shopping can be a struggle, especially when a candy bar in a shiny wrapper catches the attention of little ones.

That’s why April Tucker was so pleased when Walmart in north Salisbury started offering a grocery pick-up service through walmart.com/grocery.

“I did my shopping Saturday afternoon from my cell phone, right from my phone, and today I picked up everything I needed. I use it every week and I love it,” she said.

“It was so easy. I was done shopping in 30 minutes,” said Tucker, one of many taking advantage of changes to traditional grocery shopping nationwide and, locally, on the northern end of Salisbury, where Walmart has reconfigured the parking lot to making pick up easier and added its new Pickup Tower, Aldi is under construction and Target is expanding its grocery section.

This week, Walmart announced its new Pickup Tower in place at the North Salisbury Boulevard store and called it, in a news release, the company’s latest innovation.

“Our free pickup service is a popular way for people to save time and money. We know speed and convenience are important to our customers, and we’re always looking for new ways to bring it to them,” Ben Hardin, Walmart E-Commerce Coach, stated.

“The Pickup Tower is a great example of how we’re testing new technology and letting our customers and associates tell us what works best. We’re excited by the response to the Pickup Tower and look forward to expanding it to serve more customers,” he said.

Customers choose items from Walmart.com and select the Pickup option at the checkout. When the item arrives at the local store, it is loaded into the Tower and the customer gets it by scanning a bar code sent to his smart phone.

“These high-tech machines became a reality in about 200 Walmart stores over the last year; since that time more than half a million orders have been retrieved through the towers.

“Due to the positive feedback received from customers, Walmart plans to rapidly expand this pickup program by adding more than 500 additional Pickup Towers to stores across the country. With this expansion, Pickup Towers will be available to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population,” Hardin stated.

Also in Salisbury, there was talk about Lidl, a German discount chain, opening where America’s Best Value Inn is, on North Salisbury Boulevard. The idea appealed to locals who haven’t forgotten teenager Rakim Lamont Russell was killed in the parking lot at the hotel after a party three years ago, but Lidl won’t be building there.

“I met with their engineer and Lidl dropped that contract at that property right now. They are not pursuing that site,” John McClellan, senior adviser for SVN-Miller in Salisbury, told the Salisbury Independent.

“We are looking into a number of sites along the east coast and have not made any announcements for store locations in Maryland at this time,” Jessica Haggard, public relations specialist for Lidl US, based in Arlington, Va., said.

“We hear a lot of companies sniffing around in this area, but we haven’t seen anything tangible for other grocery stores. I think the market is still in need of another offering after Giant closed,” McClellan said.

“Harris Teeter says the demographics for the greater Salisbury area don’t meet their requirements. The thing most retailers don’t realize is the distance people around here will travel for retail or services. That may not be normal, maybe, in other markets,” McClellan said.

Jeff Baehr, vice president of the Aldi Frederick Division, said the company “looks forward to joining the Salisbury community and bringing residents high-quality groceries at affordable prices.”

Their store is under construction at Dagsboro Road.

“We will be in touch with more details closer to the grand opening. All new Aldi stores, including the new store planned for Salisbury, are designed to provide customers a modern and convenient shopping experience with a focus on fresh items, including more robust produce, dairy and bakery sections.

“New stores also feature open ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally-friendly building materials – such as recycled materials, energy-saving refrigeration and LED lighting,” Baehr said.

Calling Aldi the original leader of low prices, he said it pioneered the focus on value, convenience, quality and selection.

Operating in the United States more than 40 years, the company policy is to provide high-quality food at affordable prices.

“That’s why we do everything we do — from the size of our stores, to quality measures and private label product selection —   we work to control costs, so we can pass those savings on to our customers,” Baehr said.

There are nearly 40 Aldi stores in Maryland. This year, there are plans to open six more, in Salisbury, Frederick, Laurel, Timonium, Hanover and Rockville.

Nationwide, there are about 1,750 in 35 states.

“Nationally, Aldi is in the midst of an aggressive growth plan. Aldi is investing $3.4 billion to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022. With this growth, Aldi will be the third largest grocery store by count in the U.S. and serve 100 million customers per month,” Baehr said.

At Target on North Salisbury Boulevard, the electronics department is being moved to make space for a new grocery section.

“We’re going to be placing 27 freezers and refrigerator units combined in that area. Currently we have six freezers. We will have frozen and dairy products — pizza, frozen dinners, dairy, yogurt, cheese, eggs – everything except fresh produce and fresh meat,” Justin Giles, executive team leader for the Salisbury store, told the Salisbury Independent.

“We’ll have frozen shrimp, frozen chicken, ice cream. We have quite a bit of floor space. We’re reorganizing the sales floor to make it work.

“There are additional things on our floor that are going to be condensed down for the new space. Each area will be done at a designated time, with freezers installed in a night or two and placed where the TV wall is now, in electronics. That department will be placed at the back of the store,” he said.

The selection of dry and boxed grocery items will be expanded.

“We’ve had quite a bit of call for this over the years,” Giles said, adding it was not done because Aldi is coming to town or because of Walmart’s new pick-up service.

“Target is remodeling 300 stores and we are one of them. The store will look new from the inside and outside,” Giles said.

Target opened in Salisbury 19 years ago.

Customers can already order canned goods, cereal and other items online, at www.target.com, and have them mailed to a home address.

Walmart customer April Tucker said, pickups must be scheduled because there are currently only 30 each day.

Her pick-up time was from 11 a.m. to noon. At 10:45 a.m., she received a text message stating the order was ready.

As she was driving into the parking lot, an employee was walking to her car with her packages.

“The gentleman was so friendly and nice. He said just said, ‘Sign here for me. You don’t have to do a thing’ and he loaded it into my car,” Tucker said.

By reading the Web site, she found there is a no-tipping policy.

Although some wouldn’t want Walmart employees choosing their fresh vegetables and meats for them, Tucker said she didn’t mind and, once home, found everything to be fresh.

“I felt like I had so much more family time because it takes a couple hours to get two children ready to go grocery shopping, and to buy everything,” Tucker said.

“I definitely save money by not having a toddler saying, ‘I want this’ and ‘I want that.’ It’s the time and the money that are priceless.”

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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