It’s been a busy couple of weeks at Garden City’s new Walmart Neighborhood Market, and Store Manager Cody Wilson expects the pace to remain hectic right up to the store’s Nov. 11 grand opening.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” Wilson said. “The Neighborhood Market is a different concept. It’s a smaller format, all about customer convenience.”
Construction started in May on about 5 acres of land southeast of the intersection of Emerson Street and Taylor Avenue on the west side of town. The 41,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market, 2424 N. Taylor Ave., plans to hold a grand opening and ribbon cutting event at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 11. Following the ceremony, the doors will open for business. Wilson said Walmart is planning special offers on several products, including Pepsi products, candy, cereal and others.
Trucks started rolling in Oct. 19 to start the store stocking process. Associates have set up the shelving and fixtures, and many non-perishable items are in place. As opening day gets closer, perishable and fresh items like meat, dairy and produce will be stocked last.
“We have the best of the best. We don’t have as many different types of one thing; we have the best of the best. And it’s a lot easier for the customer to get in and get out,” Wilson said of the store.
Walmart Neighborhood Markets are different than a traditional Walmart or Walmart Supercenter in that the focus is mainly on grocery offerings. It’s essentially a traditional grocery store and will offer fresh produce and a full line of groceries from all the leading brand names, including organic and natural selections, as well as a wide variety of meat and bakery options.
In addition to groceries, the store will feature health and beauty aids, pet products, cleaning supplies and a pharmacy with a full range of products and services, as well as a fueling station. Customers also will be able to use Site to Store, a free service that allows shipping of an online order to any Walmart store in the contiguous United States. Wilson added that the Site to Store storage area is up front, so people won’t have to wait for an associate to go to the back of the store to find a customer’s package.
“It’s all about convenience with neighborhood markets. You’ve got your fresh, your produce, meat, deli, bakery, dairy. You’ve got your full grocery store, and then you’ve got consumables — paper goods, pets, chemicals, cosmetics and pharmacy. The pharmacy has a drive through, which is a huge win for customers,” he said.
Wilson said the store also will feature a bakery that offers cake personalization, a deli that he says will have tenderloin and smoked ribs, as well as a gourmet pizza program, and a fuel station and convenience store outside.
The fuel station will be open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, offering competitive gas prices and discounts of 3 cents per gallon when using a Walmart gift card and 5 cents per gallon when using a Walmart credit card.
Wilson said the store is still looking to hire additional hourly employees. Right now, they have hired about 60 but want to have around 80. There are a number of part-time positions available on all shifts, he said.
So far, Wilson has been impressed with applicants.
“The associates are wonderful so far. I felt very blessed with the quality and caliber,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s because of the format and it being a smaller grocery store, but I think the caliber of people that have applied is better than I’ve seen in the past.”
Originally, the store planned to be open 24 hours a day. But Wilson learned just Friday that the company has decided to change hours of operation to 6 a.m. to midnight daily, so a sign out front will need to be changed.
Originally from Goodland, Wilson started his career with Walmart in 1992 as an hourly associate in California. He has worked in Texas, Colorado and Kansas, including two-and-a-half years as co-manager of the Garden City Walmart Supercenter.
Wilson said Walmart’s focus is on building Neighborhood Markets, which are by far the fastest growing parts of the company. In his opinion, the focus on smaller stores stresses what’s important — taking care of customers and associates.
“The best way to do that is with a smaller format. I’m so excited about the things they’ve brought to the table,” Wilson said, pointing to a mobile tablet device held on a strap at his side. Wilson said the tablet allows him to spend more time on the floor instead of stuck behind a computer, time that can be spent taking care of customers and teaching or training associates.
“That’s the thing I love about Walmart, being able to do that,” he said.
When asked if Garden City’s recent retail growth spurt attracted Walmart to build a market here, Wilson said it’s a good question, but one that’s difficult for him to speculate about since he’s not privy to those kinds of decisions.
What he could say is Walmart looks to put its Neighborhood Markets in neighborhoods that are generally away from already built-up commercial areas because they want to give customers another option.
“It’s all about convenience. They’ve really put a focus on what’s important, and that’s taking care of the customer. We want to be a good neighbor to everybody around us,” he said.