Walmart is known as a "big box" store but inside Walmart's newest experiment, there is a hardly room for any big boxes. "Walmart.com" opened on November 1 in a San Diego mall.
It is a typical store front space with big screen TV's on the wall, some computers and tablets on the desks and toys on a shelf. But the idea isn't to sell the TV's and toys in the store but to direct customers to shop online.
"I think they have access to consumers that they don't normally get," said retail management consultant George Whalin. Whalin said by setting up shop inside a high end mall, Walmart is trying to attract shoppers who may not normally think of going to discount giant. It also carves out a niche for their online retail site.
"This is a very important test market for Walmart," said San Diego State Marketing professor George Belch. Belch said Sony, Apple and Microsoft all have their own retail stores, this is Walmart's attempt to increase their presence in the marketplace.
"This might entice shoppers to go to the Walmart website," said George Belch. He said Walmart.com is competing with the likes of Amazon.com and this could increase awareness of the company online store.
Customers in the Walmart.com store are directed to computers where they can shop for Walmart products.
Walmart officials said they will showcase key products like toys, home theater and electronics. Items ordered online can be delivered back to the Walmart.com store, to a regular Walmart location or shipped to the customer's home. Any home orders will be reimbursed for shipping with an online gift card.
"It is a very valid idea and I think during the holiday season they will do well," said George Whalin.
The Walmart.com store will stay open at least through December.
Experimental retail stores are not new for Walmart. According the Whalin, Walmart has tried convenience stores, furniture stores and small grocery stores with different degrees of success.
Belch said the Walmart.com store could attract customers who don't normally shop at Walmart stores, saying this idea will broaden their appeal.
There is only one other Walmart.com set up for this test, it is in the Los Angeles are in Canoga Park.