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Walmart Canada debuts urban supercenter format

New prototype brings more food, e-commerce and licensed shops

Food, e-commerce and store-within-a-store concepts take center stage in a new “urban supercenter” format from Walmart Canada.

Unveiled yesterday at Walmart’s 139,000-square-foot store in Toronto’s Stockyards neighborhood, the new supercenter blends an omnichannel shopping experience with enhanced grocery and foodservice offerings, third-party licensed shops, a new quick checkout service called Fast Lane, an updated product assortment, and a store design and layout geared toward urban consumers.

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Walmart Canada President and CEO Lee Tappenden addresses the crowd at the grand reopening.

"With our new urban supercenter concept, we're continuing to position ourselves as a leader in store design and retail innovation," Walmart Canada President and CEO Lee Tappenden said in a statement. "We're introducing new partners, testing new and innovative technologies, integrating e-commerce with bricks-and-mortar and updating our assortment to improve the customer shopping experience and to appeal more to young families in urban markets."

Renamed Fresh Market, the grocery department has been redesigned to include more theater lighting and a wood-panel wall treatment for a market look and feel, Walmart Canada said. The section offers fresh fruit and vegetables, including organic items, plus 100% Canadian beef, chicken, pork and seafood.

Licensed merchants in the Stockyards store include several food vendors — fast-casual restaurant chain Freshii, Naoki Sushi and a newly renovated McDonald's — along with The Party Shop, The UPS Store and Chinese variety store retailer Miniso. In late February, Toronto-based Freshii had announced plans to roll out a selection of better-for-you salads, wraps, lunch kits, snacks and cold-pressed juices at 100 Walmart Canada stores.

With the expanded foodservice, the Stockyards Walmart houses a seating area where customers can eat meals and sit with friends and family. There’s also a community board featuring local news, activities and events.

Walmart Canada noted that the new supercenter prototype introduces Fast Lane, a feature that enables customers to use the My Walmart app on their smartphone to shop and complete their transaction quickly and seamlessly by exiting the store through a dedicated checkout lane. When ready to check out, shoppers walk into the Fast Lane, scan the app barcode for their order (which is charged to their credit card on file) and show the receipt on their phone to the Fast Lane associate.

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Fast_Lane_Walmart_Canada_Toronto_Stockyards.pngAlso on the omnichannel front, the Stockyards Walmart includes a dedicated Walmart.ca section, in which customers can see and shop for extended-aisle products and talk with associates who can answer questions and assist with online orders. Walmart said the area will be used to host online vendor pop-up shops as well. To support the e-commerce enhancements, the store offers expanded and improved pickup areas plus new associate positions focused on customer service, including online grocery and general merchandise pickup.

Several innovations from previous Walmart Canada prototypes also have been integrated into the urban supercenter concept, including improvements to product displays, signage and floor plans, the company added. 

"Our new concept is a symbol of what's to come in retail and demonstrates our vision for helping Canadians save money and live better, now and in the future," Tappenden stated.

Plans call for a second supercenter concept to launch in Thornhill, Ontario, next year, and best practices from new-format stores will be incorporated into future remodels, according to Walmart Canada.

Earlier this month, Walmart Canada said it aims to renovate and/or refresh 31 stores — including conversions to the Supercenter format — as part of a $200 million investment in its retail network. The project involves 17 locations in Ontario, five in Alberta, three in Quebec, two in British Columbia, two in Manitoba, one in Newfoundland and one in Saskatchewan.

Over the last five years, Walmart has invested more than $1 billion in its Canadian store network, including a $175 million plan to upgrade 23 stores in its last fiscal year. Mississauga, Ontario-based Walmart Canada operates about 410 stores overall.

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