Grocery pickup. Sixteen-foot tall product vending machines. More self-checkout lanes.

These are three of the additions coming to the Detroit Lakes Walmart by early November, said Tiffany Wilson, the Director of Communications for Walmart.

"There's several remodeled sections of the store and we're adding new services to the store," she explained during a phone interview.

The construction of these new features has been going on since August, as local shoppers know. Product aisles narrow as sections of the floor get redone, checkout lanes close for the same reason, items are moved to different places -- and there are more changes to come.

"We realize that a lot of these innovations are shifting ... along with customers' needs," Wilson said. "People have less and less time to shop, so we're trying to find new ways that don't add time or take away from their pocketbook ... and enhance their shopping experience."

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No unbuckling for groceries

The Detroit Lakes Walmart is one of the first in Minnesota to offer the grocery pickup service. Wilson said the option started in Denver in 2013 and 25 stores are starting the service in Minnesota by the end of the year.

"(It's) a service that's really convenient for busy customers. It gives our customers the convenience of shopping online and not leaving your cars," Wilson said.

The pickup option works by ordering groceries online or through the app, paying via card, and then selecting a time window that you will pick up the groceries. When you arrive at that time, you park at a designated grocery pickup parking spot -- another addition at our Walmart -- and one of the workers will load the groceries for you.

"We have used these services at Sams Club," Abby Pettit, a local Walmart shopper, said. "We will certainly be using the new services at Walmart in Detroit Lakes to not only save us time but money as well."

The grocery items available for pick-up will be increased, as they are adding "pretty much an aisle worth of grocery items -- over 100 feet," Wilson said. Instead of shoppers navigating through these new options in person, our Walmart will now have personal shoppers to do it for them.

"It's created thousands and thousands of jobs that did not exist before," Wilson said. "Each of these personal shoppers are trained for two to three weeks to pick out all these groceries for you. (They) make sure you are getting items that are as good as, or better than you would you pick for yourselves."

From the stores that have had grocery pickup, Wilson said that "it's the highest positive experience we've had." Pettit can see the positivity behind it, saying that the service "will cut out the unnecessary purchases we seem to make."

"I think this new service at Walmart will be a wonderful asset to our community. I know it will save me the stress of waiting in the checkout line longer than it did to find all my items," Pettit said.

Wilson also added that some of their positive feedback is "from customers with mobility issues ... so online grocery pickup solves that problem."

The option is only offered at "very specific stores that meet requirements," Wilson said. These Walmarts need space for the grocery pickup parking spots that are close to the frozen grocery section.

Although it's not being added now, Wilson did say that a grocery delivery option is "likely the next step" at the Detroit Lakes Walmart since it is adding the grocery pickup service. The stores that have that service are the best candidates for the delivery service, she said.

Grocery delivery is a newer option at only 800 locations nationwide. By the end of the year, Wilson said they plan to introduce this to 12 stores in Minnesota, with one of them possibly being the Detroit Lakes one.

Vending vs. find-it-yourself

"It's a 16-foot tall, high-tech vending machine and it fulfills the customer's order in less than a minute," Wilson explained about the machines. "You order your items online and select pick up when you checkout."

When the order goes through, a Walmart associate packs your items together and loads it into the vending machine.

"Once your order is ready, you get an email with a barcode. So you walk up to this giant vending machine, you scan your barcode and your item is vended to you," Wilson said.

The items don't drop down in front of you like a food vending machine; there's a series of trays inside of the machine and it comes out to you on the tray. Wilson said that the process takes just a couple of seconds.

Only eight other locations throughout Minnesota will get these vending towers; Detroit Lakes will have them by the end of October.

The vending machines and grocery pickup are the only new services being added to our Walmart. Most departments are being updated and improved, along with the floor, as many shoppers have noticed. Wilson said that the floor is being replaced with a concrete option because it keeps the floors cleaner and less slippery.

Departments that are being remodeled include:

  • Electronics: Interactive displays have been added and tables are lower to the ground. "This allows our customers to come into our stores and touch and feel things ... so they can try them before they buy them," Wilson said.
  • Tools: "(We are) giving it a new look and adding some new tools," Wilson said.
  • Apparel departments: Will have new signs and fitting rooms
  • Home: The layout is being updated and a larger assortment of products is being introduced

A total of $32 million is being spent by Walmart to improve stores throughout Minnesota. Wilson welcomes feedback on these changes, suggesting that customers talk to managers about their thoughts.