With online sales surging, Walmart is planning to set up mini warehouses in dozens of its stores.
The retailer said this week that it plans to build a large number of fulfilment centers, measuring 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, inside its stores or in spaces next to them, according to CNN.
The centers will be manned by robots who can pack orders in “a few minutes,” according to a blog post written by the company’s senior vice president of customer product, Tom Ward.
The company hopes that adding the fulfillment centers will speed up delivery times. The move also heightens competition with rival Amazon.
The robots will only handle simple items such as boxes or frozen foods, while Walmart employees will handle more complicated tasks.
The announcement follows a year in which online sales dominated the retail market, owing to widespread store closures and concerns about social distancing.
In the third quarter of 2020, Walmart’s online sales increased 79 percent from the same period the year before.
The company’s ownership of much of the real estate it occupies figures to facilitate the conversions. At the end of 2019, it owned 4,701 of its 5,542 U.S. properties, including Sam’s Club stores and distribution centers.
[CNN] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan