Walmart is building 'town centres' in its parking lots — and it could redefine the one-stop shop

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesCertain Walmarts might be getting new neighbours, like Shake Shack and Orangetheory Fitness.

Shoppers could be facing a brave new Walmart in the near future.

The retail giant is transforming extra parking lot space into “town centres” at Walmarts in several states. These new hubs would feature a “carefully curated mix” of “local, regional, and national” retail tenants, according to a website for the project, not to mention green spaces and, in certain cases, parking systems overhauled to better facilitate the store’s grab-and-go services.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that Walmart is looking to fill these town centres with restaurants, day care establishments, health clinics, bowling alleys, food trucks, bike rental stations, driving ranges, fuel stations, and more.

“The Walmart Town Center concept is an exciting approach to how we serve our customers by moving beyond the store’s four walls and reimagining how we use our unique assets – our existing stores and the surrounding land – to transform how customers experience Walmart,” a Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider.

Walmart listed a few such projects underway at select Walmart stores in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

“We want to provide community space, areas for the community to dwell – a farmer’s market, an Easter egg hunt, trick or treating,” LB Johnson, Walmart’s vice president of US realty operations, told the audience at the 2018 International Council of Shopping Centres conference, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “We want to provide pedestrian connectivity from our box to the experiential zones that are planned on our footprint. We want to augment these experiences and activities with more food and beverage, with health and fitness, essential services and entertainment.”

In other words, certain Walmarts might start to resemble open-air malls more than standalone big-box stores, surrounded by chains like Shake Shack, Chipotle, and Orangetheory Fitness.

“We envision a more robust and dynamic shopping experience that combines entertainment venues, curated local food vendors, health and fitness services as well as recreational opportunities in a way that connects and engages with the community,” a Walmart spokesperson told Business Insider.

Walmart’s move toward transforming the shopping experience at certain locations may be evidence that the concept of the one-stop shop is on the way out – or at least fundamentally changing.

Walmart has long established itself as a one-stop shop, Business Insider previously reported. But according to Morgan Stanley’s 2018 AlphaWise food retail survey, consumers buy groceries at an average of three retailers. Walmart leads the field of grocers, attracting one in four shoppers and locking down a 23% share of the market.

By enticing a slew of new potential partners into its planned town centres, Walmart may redefine what it means to be a one-stop shop. Rather than simply offering a wide variety of goods and services within its stores, the big-box giant instead would be establishing itself as a retail hub with an orbit of complementary tenants.

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