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Walmart’s Market Fulfillment Center Opens at Hometown Store

Storage and retrieval system speeds online pickup and delivery
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Alphabot
The new on-site fulfillment center at a Walmart store in Arkansas is powered by the Alphabot system developed specifically for the retailer.

Walmart’s home turf includes a new in-store fulfillment center (FC). The retailer – No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America – opened its first high-tech FC in Arkansas at its store located at 406 South Walton Boulevard in Bentonville.

The Market Fulfillment Center (MFC) is built within the store and features a proprietary storage and retrieval system called Alphabot. That system operates inside of a warehouse-style space, using autonomous carts to retrieve ambient, refrigerated and frozen items ordered for online grocery. After it retrieves them, Alphabot delivers the products to a workstation, where a Walmart associate checks, bags and delivers the final order.

[Read more: "The PG 100: The Biggest Players in Grocery Retail"]

The in-store setup allows the retailer to significantly increase the number of orders that the site can handle a day, with a lower rate of substitutions. It reflects Walmart’s shift to that mode of fulfillment to improve efficiencies and shopper satisfaction.

“This new order fulfillment system is truly game-changing,” said Ryan Simpson, the store manager at Store 100. “Not only does it enhance the customer experience through quicker, more accurate online order fulfillment, it also provides us the runway to continue growing our business now and in the future.”

Employee productivity is another benefit of the MFC model, Walmart noted. For example, some team members can redirect their efforts to serve customers, while others can learn and teach new tech-forward skills.

“The dedicated space allows us to concentrate on picking items for our online customers,” said Gilbert Giron, an MFC digital team lead at Walmart. “I feel confident that the items our associates are looking for are going to be there when a customer wants them.”

As Walmart unveiled the MFC at a location near its headquarters, it marked the occasion by donating $15,000 to local schools. The funds are earmarked to improve students' technological and educational development.

Following the opening of this center and an earlier pilot concept at a store in Salem, N.H., Walmart is working on plans for other MFCs in select stores in the coming years.

Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. 

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