Walmart expands its grocery pickup service into Berks County

Bechtelsville Walmart Associate Jessica Swinehart prepares to deliver a grocery order to a customer on Thursday. Swinehart is taking a final look at the order before loading it into the car. She is assisted by associate Janet Gruber. Three Berks County Walmart stores rolled out the grocery pickup service on Thursday, including the store in Bechtelsville.
Bechtelsville Walmart Associate Jessica Swinehart prepares to deliver a grocery order to a customer on Thursday. Swinehart is taking a final look at the order before loading it into the car. She is assisted by associate Janet Gruber. Three Berks County Walmart stores rolled out the grocery pickup service on Thursday, including the store in Bechtelsville. Donna Rovins — Digital First Media
Bechtelsville Walmart Associate Jessica Swinehart loads groceries into a customer’s car on Thursday. The Bechtelsville store was one of three Walmart stores in Berks county to roll out the grocery pickup service on Thursday. The service allows customers to order groceries online and then pick them up at the store, where the order is then delivered to the car without a need to go inside the store.
Bechtelsville Walmart Associate Jessica Swinehart loads groceries into a customer’s car on Thursday. The Bechtelsville store was one of three Walmart stores in Berks county to roll out the grocery pickup service on Thursday. The service allows customers to order groceries online and then pick them up at the store, where the order is then delivered to the car without a need to go inside the store. Donna Rovins — Digital First Media

Bechtelsville >> Grocery shopping … everyone does it. From list writing to shopping to putting away — it’s an activity that takes hours every week.

Or maybe not.

Walmart on Thursday rolled-out its grocery pickup service to three Berks County stores — in Hamburg, Exeter and Bechtelsville.

“I’m really excited that we’re adding grocery pickup. Customers have been asking for it. We have been doing pickup with general merchandise for a long time — and we’re good at it,” said Tyler Morgan, store manager for the Bechtelsville location. “No one offers grocery pick up the way we do. From deli to meat to produce, we have done the work in the background to make it easy and convenient for customers.”

Grocery pickup allows customers to place an order for their grocery products and choose a convenient pickup time. When they arrive at the store, they park in a designated spot, and through the Walmart Grocery app, let the store know they have arrived. Walmart associates will deliver the order and load it into the customer’s car.

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“We offer the broadest assortment of items — 40,000 items,” Morgan added. Available products include grocery items, fresh meat, dairy, produce and consumables like toiletries, diapers and pet food.

Grocery pickup was launched by Walmart in 2015, according to Mike Bernhardt, Walmart eCommerce coach, but has been rolled out slowly by the company.

“We did this to better serve our customers, who are looking for faster and easier ways to shop,” Bernhardt said. “We have gone slowly because we want to make sure that it’s being done right. In 2018 — 1000 stores will get the grocery pick up service.”

At the Bechtelsville store on Thursday, there were 20 pickup orders placed for the first day — including one order that had more than 100 items in it.

A staff of nine is dedicated to the grocery pickup, but Online Grocery Manager Zach Thomas said he is planning to add more as the service grows. The staff is comprised of some experienced store associates as well as some new hires.

And while there was equipment and signage that was needed to prepare for the launch, Morgan said the biggest investment has been in the people.

Thomas added that training for the grocery pickup service was about 10 weeks.

“It is very hands on training. Our produce experts know exactly what to look for to provide the freshest quality and what to put out. So they worked side by side with the trainees,” said Thomas. “For the last couple of weeks we have been doing test runs — putting orders through and practicing filling them.”

Thomas added that grocery pickup gives Walmart “a great new way to provide service for customers.”

Starting at 5 a.m., associates begin pulling the orders for the day. Groceries are kept in refrigerators; frozen food and ice cream are kept in freezers. When the customer arrives at the store, all of the items are placed into totes and taken to the customer’s car.

An associate reviews the order with the customer and explains if any substitutions were made — substitutions the customer can reject. However, Bernhardt said that if an ordered product is not available and a substitution is made with a product that is priced higher, the customer will get it at the lower price.

“We make sure everything is correct. If it’s good, then the customer signs for it and they receive an email confirmation,” said Walmart Associate Jessica Swinehart.

“We go over everything with them,” added Walmart Associate Janet Gruber.

At the Bechtelsville store on Thursday, Bernhardt, who had an order waiting, demonstrated how the pickup worked. On the app, he alerted the store that he had arrived, and within 90-seconds, his completed order was coming out the door.

Bernhardt added that part of his job is reading customer surveys about the service.

“Across the board, customers love it. Satisfaction is extremely high,” he said. “The goal is speed and accuracy.”

Bernhardt added that in addition to the Bechtelsville location, 567 Route 100 North, the grocery pickup service launched Thursday at Walmart stores in Hamburg (1800 Tilden Ridge) and Exeter (5900 Perkiomen Ave.). The service is also available at stores in Hatfield, Willow Grove, Allentown, Mechanicsburg and Parkesburg.

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