As major retailers get ready for a wave of October holiday shoppers, store design and safety is still top priority. Both Walmart and Target have announced new configurations and pandemic-inspired changes to keep shoppers safe.
Walmart announced its design yesterday (Sept. 30), and already it has been criticized by some media outlets. In a missive from Janey Whiteside, EVP and chief customer officer of Walmart, the company outlined a fairly radical redesign that aims to direct shoppers’ movements in preparation for more in-store traffic than it has seen since the pandemic took hold in March.
The new Walmart in-store design starts with an invitation to a digital experience. The company has updated all signage to include the Walmart app icon, as well as encouragement to download it. Then come the foot traffic changes: There is “bold” in-store signage throughout the store, directing customers to the exact section they are looking for, while aisles are marked with letter and number combinations to guide shoppers from their phones to their desired products.
“We were inspired by airport wayfinding systems as best-in-class examples of how to direct large groups of people,” Whiteside said in a statement. “We developed simple yet thoughtful designs to replicate these navigation efficiencies, which will help us move customers through the store more quickly. We also optimized product layout, bringing greater visibility to key items throughout the store, including dedicated in-store sections for electronics, toys, baby products and more.”
Stores will also include self-checkout kiosks as well as contactless payment solutions, including Walmart Pay, to limit contact between associates and customers.
Walmart has tested the new concept in select stores, and says it will continue to get customer and associate feedback “and evolve the design accordingly.” The new design experience is expected to be in nearly 200 Supercenters as well as in select Health Centers and Neighborhood Markets by the end of this fiscal year, reaching close to 1,000 stores by next fiscal year.
Fast Company was among the media outlets that positioned the new design as limiting to shoppers. “The days of lazily strolling through store aisles are over, at least for a while,” it said. “And nowhere is this trend more clear than in Walmart’s new store design, which the company is unveiling for the first time today.”
Target has also made changes in preparation for more foot traffic. It is doubling the staff dedicated to Drive Up and Order Pickup services, and is training additional team members to help during peak shopping hours. The company says that more than 90 percent of its digital orders are fulfilled by store teams, but it will also prepare its distribution centers to send more inventory to stores with more staff.
Target is also adding more front-of-store team members to disinfect carts, provide masks to shoppers and encourage social distancing. Target employees have completed more than 400,000 hours of safety training this year, according to the company.
“The success of our business strategy rests on the strength of our team and their ability to adjust quickly to the needs of our guests and their changing shopping patterns,” said Melissa Kremer, chief human resources officer, Target. “Throughout the year, the team has successfully balanced strong demand in our stores with surging digital volume. Knowing that the holiday season will be unlike any other, we’re building in even more flexibility to make sure Target remains a safe and convenient place to work and shop, while investing in our team’s industry-leading pay and benefits.”