retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart plans to expand its two-hour Express Delivery program from the 100 stores where it has been successfully piloted to 1,000 stores over the next few weeks and then to close to another 1,000 stores shortly thereafter - one more sign that of the company's continued willingness to engage Amazon in a pitched e-commerce battle.

USA Today writes that Walmart says it "will expand the program because of customer demand during the coronavirus crisis. Express Delivery has more than 160,000 items including groceries, toys, electronics and other daily essential items available to order for the two-hour delivery … Express Delivery orders … include an additional $10 over current delivery fees. Walmart’s Delivery Unlimited customers ($12.95 monthly or $98 per year) just pay a $10 fee per order."

"We know our customers' lives have changed during this pandemic and so has the way they shop," said Janey Whiteside, Walmart's chief customer officer in a statement. "We also know when we come out of this, customers will be busier than ever, and sometimes that will call for needing supplies in a hurry."

TechCrunch offers this analysis:  "Like Walmart’s other grocery deliveries, Express deliveries are handled by Walmart’s external network of delivery partners, which vary by market. The retailer won’t comment on if those additional fees are split with their partners, or how, if so.

"There could be backlash against a system like this, given how it favors a wealthier customer at a time when food and other critical supplies have run short. During the pandemic, store shelves have often been bare as consumers hoarded things like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Lysol cleaners. Now, consumers are being warned that meat shortages are expected soon."

KC's View:

It is simultaneously a perfect time and a tough time to expand a service like this … perfect because people need it more than ever, and tough because there is so much stress on the system.

But Walmart continues to reinvent itself as retailer - while tending to avoid coloring outside the lines and expanding into ancillary businesses like Amazon does.

This is going to be like Gladiator, with Walmart and Amazon in the Coliseum, battling it out in the knowledge that what they "do in life echoes in eternity."

(Or at least for a couple of fiscal years.)