- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Thanks to home-shopping networks like QVC, HSN and EVINE Live (once also known as ShopNBC) guys and gals are purchasing Kansas City steaks, Maine Lobster and those juicy Honeybells without the benefit “taste-vision.” Similar consumer habits are reflecting the convenient — and highly profitable — reality of today’s retail food market, which is re-reinventing itself by also transporting consumers back farther into the future.

In short order, food retailers are delivering their goods the old fashion way: The same way they say the milkman did. You can preorder groceries and pick them up at the store or you can have them delivered to your doorstep at your convenience. Sam’s Club, founder Sam Walton’s membership-only warehouse, has joined the club.

This week Sam’s Club officials announced its back-to-the-future proposal.

Here’s how it will work: Use Wal-Mart’s mobile check-in feature to order your groceries, including produce and frozen food. Next, approximate your pick-up time. Then, pull up and voila. Stash and go.

Used to be that consumers had to pull up, check in and wait for the warehouse crew to troll the store to retrieve your frozen goods. The new technology makes that inconvenience go poof!


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Of course, Target, Home Depot and other Walton competitors were already offering the convenience of in-store pick-up via online shopping, which is far easier than shopping pre-Interent. You do not have to go to the store, walk around a maze of aisles, shopping carts and pallets of inventory, and stand in line to spend your hard-earned money.

People love convenience, and they don’t mind paying a small price for it, even though at-home delivery, which Sam’s also does, is no comparison to at-store pick up.

Giant supermarkets, which is headquartered in inside the Beltway and has stores in Delaware, has been delivering groceries door-to-door for sometime.

As a few of my coworkers explained — and one gave an online demonstration — the service is good. Peapod, the delivery service used by Giant, takes your grocery order online, you schedule delivery date and time, and then simply be there to accept your order at the appointed hour.

In a test run, we ordered peanut butter, Ritz Crackers and Scott bath tissue (the one staple you never want to run out of). Fees for delivery can be considered too high or quite reasonable, depending on your wallet.

The point is the convenience boom is no longer the sole province of McDonald’s and Starbucks.

The Sam Walton brain trust

The old man was no dummy.

Like Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Tesla and Ford, Walton delivered the what, how, when and where to consumers.

Walton opened his first variety store in 1945, his first “Wal-Mart Discount City” in 1962.

If you don’t think he and his brain trust are giving us what we want, consider the fact that:

His company is No. 1 company on the Fortune 500 list, and in 2014 it achieved that ranking for the third straight year and 11 times overall.

His company is the third largest employer in the whole wide world, behind only the U.S. Defense Department and China’s military.

His company, which brought in $485.7 billion in revenue in 2014, even outpaced by $103 billion ExxonMobil, a Rockefeller legacy.

His company’s No. 1 selling product: bananas. It sells a billion of them every year.

The other changes

I’m usually in one of Walton’s stores every week. His stores in D.C. are the urban shops, smaller but still carrying a variety of goods and fresh produce — including bananas, which I purchase for my elderly mom, who sometimes eats two a day.

The D.C. stores weren’t always welcome, as the unions and people who just don’t know any better didn’t want the Walton’s to open up shop here.

They complained that the wages are too low, the benefits are nonexistent and career ladder too steep.

If you visit any of the D.C. and nearby Virginia and Maryland stores are routinely as I do, and witness the workers not working, you come to understand why they have so much time to complain.

The Walton brain trust has more new stores in D.C. and elsewhere on the drawing board, which means a sure-footed crossing of the threshold of more than 11,000-stores and 2.2 million employees.

Oops, I meant to say “associates.” That’s what the Walton brain trust calls them.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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