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Walmart Canada pilots store concepts at Ontario store with plans to expand across the country

The chain’s largest store in Canada in Mississauga, Ont. is being used as a testing platform for the first meals-to-go Hot Kitchen, digital store and product navigation screens, dynamic shelf labeling in grocery, and a health and wellness hub

Walmart Canada’s flagship store at the Square One shopping centre in Mississauga re-opened its doors after an 18-month renovation.

The store, the largest by square foot in the country at approximately 223,000 sq ft, was one of the original 122 stores from Walmart’s 1994 launch in the Canadian market. The investments marks the midpoint in the five-year timeframe of Walmart’s $3.5 billion investment in store infrastructure and customer experience transformation, first announced in July 2020.

John Bayliss, chief operations officer, says the concepts being tested at the store are part of Walmart’s mission to provide an enhanced customer experience and will serve as a prototype for “omnichannel retail innovation.”

The two-level store features many firsts for Walmart Canada: a new hot meals-to-go counter called Hot Kitchen, a Health hub with a digital assistant for customer support and special health focused merchandising displays, dynamic shelf labelling that feature product videos, reviews and recommendations, digital store navigation screens to help customers find departments and specific products, and enhanced in-store purchase and pick up services for electronics and big purchase items like furniture.

The Walmart Health Hub centralizes the store’s pharmacy, vision centre and medical clinic into one area to provide a one-stop shop for health and wellness. The hub is supported by the company’s digital pharmacy app, which includes a new health guide area that provides information on health solutions and an interactive concierge-style service. This service can schedule pharmacy and optical appointments, find health and wellness products in store and offers a vitamin recommendation tool.

Bayliss says the dynamic shelving, which Walmart calls “SmartShelf, is a global test. The system consists of a 28-foot fixture that features an LCD screen at each shelf and allows customers to see ratings and reviews for products.

“We’re really excited about testing smart shelving. We’re looking to see how customers and our associates respond. These are dynamic screens with colour and information about products. But there are operational benefits as well because our associates can use the screens to see where to put items, for price changes and stocking, so it helps in the efficiency of how we build up. We’re running them for the next few months, and we’ll take the input back to Walmart to consider expanding. We’ve selected this for grocery for now, but the smart shelving can run in any department.”

The new The Hot Kitchen is “a huge traffic driver,” says Bayliss. “We’re already seeing a big uptake with folks in the mall and across the community. We’re very excited to see where this goes and I think it adds to what we’re trying to do here, which is change the perception of Walmart as a great destination for every day needs and grocery needs.

The Hot Kitchen is part of an expanded fresh department on the lower level of the store, which Bayliss says is double the size of previous fresh departments.

“Our assortment in fresh and grocery reflects a very dynamic population in Mississauga, and we want shoppers to feel that this store is part of the community,” says Bayliss.

Check out more photos of the store.

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