ROGERS, Ark. – Walmart unveiled a new convenience store this week in Rogers, Arkansas, a 2,500-square-foot building featuring the retailer’s latest fueling and c-store concept, reports the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
Ramnik Narsey, a senior vice president for Walmart's U.S. fuel business, told the news source that the retailer spent about a year developing plans before building its new convenience stores in Rogers and Crowley, Texas.
The Rogers c-store is located at the entrance of a Walmart Supercenter, replacing a kiosk that was manned by an employee and offered a small selection of c-store merchandise like candy, snacks and beverages. Narsey told the news source that customer feedback led the retailer to consider a larger c-store.
The Rogers c-store offers premade sandwiches and salads, and a hot food bar with grab-and-go menu items such as paninis, nachos, hot dogs and sausages. The store sells beer, and features a soft-serve ice cream machine with multiple flavors. Store shelves are stocked with common c-store fare, along with grocery staples like milk, eggs, frozen meals and pizzas.
Narsey told the news source that value and speed is the goal, offering customers the chance to grab a variety of items quickly and at Walmart prices. "We'll do a little bit of fine-tuning as we go along and get feedback from customers about what they like, what they think we could do better," he said. "But I think this is about the comfortable size."
Citing a recent NACS survey that found 68% of convenience retailers said their fuel sales increased in 2016 and 63% said food sales increased, the news source writes that Walmart is hoping to make a bigger push into the c-store channel. Brian Yarbrough, a retail analyst for Edward Jones, commented that c-stores don’t often make a lot on fuel, but that Walmart could find success with food.
"It's a model that works because you have the gas that drives consistent traffic and if you get them in the convenience store, it's very high-margin stuff," Yarbrough told the news source. “But for Walmart, does it move the needle? You could spread a couple thousand across the U.S. and it's probably not going to move the needle because Walmart's revenue base is so big."
It's not unusual for Walmart to test smaller-store formats. The company began opening Walmart Express stores with an average size of 12,000 square feet in 2011, but decided to close 102 of them across the U.S last year. Walmart also has opened college campus stores ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet, although some of those have closed as well.
Joshua Nicholson, manager of the new Rogers c-store, told the news source that he sees a lot of opportunity for the new concept. “We're just going to focus on our customers right now and take that feedback and go with that," he said. "But I think we'll do pretty well. I think our customers will be impressed."