The new store's differences from a typical, generally drab Walmart supercenter is evident as soon as one parks in a stall. The exterior of the supercenter is decked out with bright blue and orange signage, an homage to the brand's well-known color scheme. One side of the store has designated spaces for online grocery pickup. Behind the store there is a drive- thru that will also help with online order pickup. Inside there is a giant kiosk near the entrance that assists in picking up online orders, a hipster-friendly BBQ joint, and sleek signs hanging over aisles.
This supercenter houses various new initiatives that Walmart is testing for possible national roll-out.
"We are spending a lot of time trying to bring enthusiasm back to the stores," said Walmart's chief merchandising officer for its U.S. stores to a crowd of reporters Thursday at the location, ahead of the retailer's annual meeting.
Added Walmart CEO to a crowd of associates and media at the annual meeting Friday, "We have the opportunity to re-imagine retail, again, so that's what we're out to do."
Walmart joins rival Target (TGT) - Get Target Corporation Report in trying to inject some pizzazz -- along with helpful new services -- into its large-format stores. Target is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio.
Target recently tapped its largest market, California, to test several potential changes to the look of its future stores. In a pilot program called "LA25," the discounter has taken its 35 top store enhancements that it has been testing across the country and put them all together in 25 stores in Los Angeles. Some of the enhancements include sleeker apparel fixtures, a better-lit fresh produce section that emphasizes organics, dedicated service stations for people to quickly pick up online orders, and the addition of specialists in key departments to help provide product knowledge.
There are also "service advisers" who assist in navigating the chain's website and mobile app Cartwheel.
Target is continuing with the overhaul of its restaurant options to make them more interesting for shoppers. For instance, it expanded the floor space devoted to Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report and added the coffee king to the five or so stores that didn't have the concept before. Starbucks is also an Action Alerts PLUS holding.
Target is also testing "healthy" fast-casual concepts such as salad bowl seller Freshii and sandwich maker Which Wich.
"What we are doing with LA25 will influence our next-generation store experience that we are working on -- there may also be specific sections from these stores that may help influence the chain quicker," said Mark Schindele, a senior vice president at Target who's leading LA25, in an interview with TheStreet. Target plans to spend $1 billion this year to spruce up the shopping experience of its stores, with a portion of that being devoted to remodels.
The company will undertake 39 full store remodels in 2016, and open 15 more stores.
TheStreet had the opportunity to tour Walmart's store of the future with executives. Here are some of the biggest things that stood out.
1. Scan & Go
A Walmart executive demonstrates scan and go.
Via an app, shoppers can now scan items as they put them in the basket. Once finished shopping, shoppers head to a scan-and-go checkout section and scan a barcode in the app that automatically pays for the items. A cashier bags the items and hands them over to the customer.
Walmart currently is testing scan-and-go capabilities in a handful of U.S. stores.
2. Hipster Eatery
Prices for BBQ were pretty affordable.
BBQ is popular in the South, so why not stick a joint in the front of a well-trafficked Walmart store in Arkansas?
That is just what the retailer did with a new restaurant called Big Rub, which is a food truck brand native to Arkansas. The restaurant serves BBQ and street-style tacos.
3. Online Order Pickup Kiosks
With these kiosks, Walmart is making it easier to pickup online orders.
Walmart now has these giant touchscreen kiosks in a handful of stores, said an executive on the tour. Shoppers can go up to the kiosk to confirm their online orders and then take a seat nearby until a worker fetches the items. The executive said stores with kiosks are seeing a lift in sales.
Workers who deliver people their online orders are not allowed to accept tips. The service is free to use.
4. Locally Relevant Alcohol
There's more than just Budweiser at this Walmart store.
"People think all Walmart stores sell the same stuff, but that's not necessarily true," remarked one executive on the tour. That is certainly true when it came to beer and wine-cooler drinks at the new store.
Locally relevant beer and hard soda options were for sale at the store. Introducing locally made alcohol is also something Target has done lately.
5. Sleeker Fixtures And Signs
The Fitbit section has a sexier look.
One thing was very clear from the store tour -- Walmart's store of the future will do its best to shake a downtrodden image.
To assist in elevating the store experiences, Walmart has upgraded the signs that hang above aisles to give them a sleeker look. The same goes for multiple fixtures in the store, from racks that hold produce to displays that showcase smartwatches.