Walmart has officially opened its first “high-tech” market fulfillment center in Bentonville, Ark.
According to the retailer, the market fulfillment center is built within the store and is powered by a proprietary storage and retrieval system named “Alphabot.” Walmart said it believes that connecting its store and supply chain assets end to end will ultimately “transform fulfillment.”
The center will increase the number of orders the store is able to fill in a given day. When a pilot system was launched in Salem, N.H., in 2020, the retailer said the Alphabot tech could process orders 10 times faster than humans. The pilot allowed tweaks to be made to the market fulfillment center prior to its official debut in Bentonville.
Walmart said this also will allow employees to focus more on the needs of customers.
“I feel confident that the items our associates are looking for are going to be there when a customer wants them. That makes me feel good, because I know our team is providing our customers with great service,” said Gilbert Giron, an MFC digital team lead at Walmart.
“We’re innovating toward an even better shopping experience every day, and on every platform,” said Prathibha Rajashekar, senior vice president of Innovation and Automation at Walmart. “To help our customers and associates live better, we’re using technology to help them save time. That leads to improved experiences for everyone, no matter how they shop – and moves our entire business forward in the process.”
Earlier in the week, Walmart announced strong Q1 earnings. After posting first quarter sales of 7.8% on May 18, the retailer upped its expectations for the fiscal year, predicting 3.5% growth in consolidated net sales.
In terms of total revenue for the three-month period that ended April 30, Walmart originally thought it would bring in just under $149 billion. The actual figure was just over $152 billion vs. just over $141.5 billion in 2022. Same-store sales were up 7.4% year-over-year at Walmart and 7% at Sam’s Club. Ecommerce sales were buff: up 27% vs. Q1 2022 for Walmart and 19% for Sam’s Club.
However, it was not all good news on the financial front. Walmart’s net income for the opening quarter was $1.67 billion. In 2022 it was $2.05 billion. The difference is due to the economy. As noted by Target during its earnings meeting earlier in the week, Walmart, based in Bentonville, Ark., is seeing more shopper money go toward essentials like grocery instead of discretionary items. The big-box retailer depends on food and household items for 60% of its U.S. sales, which increased in the low single digits to start the fiscal year. Walmart CFO John David Rainey said consumers are waiting for deals with big ticket items, and they also are buying in smaller sizes.