After nearly three years as the missing front tooth on the landscape of Greenville Avenue, the space that was Formerly Whole Foods Market has a new tenant: It will become an innovative newfangled grocery concept from Walmart called Sam's Club Now.
Jamie Iannone, CEO of SamsClub.com, calls the new store "the epicenter of innovation for Sam's Club."
"There won’t be another club like it," Iannone says. "It will be a mobile-first shopping experience powered by the new Sam's Club Now app. At its core, Sam's Club Now will be a technology lab that doubles as a live, retail club. It’s where we will incubate, test, and refine technologies to help define the future of retail."
The store's arrival was originally teased in June. "We know this site has been a subject of conversation over the years, and we are committed to being a good neighbor," Iannone said.
Yeah well, a good neighbor might've given up the space to another business after shutting down the Walmart neighborhood store in 2016, instead of letting it sit as a vacant blight for nearly three years.
A good neighbor would have definitely allowed visitors to use their vast, empty parking lot while the neighborhood was undergoing a difficult renovation, instead of hiring security to block people from parking.
Guess it depends on your definition of "good neighbor."
The Verge describes the new store as "the latest move in Amazon and Walmart's ongoing war for retail supremacy in the U.S.," since it competes directly with Amazon's new Go stores.
The entire store will be like a self-serve cashier, with customers using the app to scan items as they shop. A staff member then gives the order a final onceover.
"Our associates are key to bringing this experience to life, which is why we're introducing a new role called the Member Host," Iannone says. "Think of these associates as the concierge of the club. We'll empower them with new technology that will allow them to serve members better and faster."
With job titles like "Member Host" and "concierge," let's hope they get more than minimum wage. Also, is there bottle service?
Customer usage of the app will be monitored by Sam's Club for research. So you're helping Sam's — that should earn a discount. "This will be an interactive experience and they’ll help us test and refine new features before we launch them nationally," Iannone says. It's about them, not us.
At 32,000 square feet, the store is about a quarter the size of an average Sam's Club. Features include:
Smart shopping lists. The company has developed technology that combines machine learning and purchase data to auto-fill a member's shopping list. You can add or remove things, and as items are scanned, the list automatically updates and moves the item to your mobile basket.
Wayfinding and navigation. Using voice search capabilities combined with new wayfinding and navigation features, a map will pop up to show where the item is. "Eventually, we'll be able to use beacon technology and a member's smart shopping list to map the best route through the club," Iannone says.
Augmented reality. This includes sharing ways to use products, cool features, and sourcing.
One-hour club pickup: Using the app, members can place and pickup an order within the hour.
Electronic shelf labels. These will be a test item that will instantly update prices, removing the need to print and replace new item price signs.
The store will also be equipped with more than 700 cameras which they say is to help manage inventory in new ways and optimize the layout to make shopping effortless. Nothing to do with surveillance or theft protection at all. It's a layout optimization scheme, see.
"We’re putting Sam’s Club on the cutting edge of innovation in the warehouse channel," Iannone effuses. "Using all available technologies – including computer vision, AR, machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, just to name a few – we will redefine the retail experience today and into the future."