Ooltewah Walmart rolls out new 'pickup tower' for online shoppers

A shopper gets her order at a Walmart pickup tower. The towers are designed to fulfill a customer's online order faster, according to the retailer.

A shopper gets her order at a Walmart...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

A Walmart Supercenter in Ooltewah is one of fewer than 100 of the retailer's 4,000 stores nationally to debut new technology designed to let online shoppers pick up their orders faster.

A so-called "pickup tower" has been installed at the Little Debbie Parkway store that works like a vending machine to fill a customer's order in what the company says is less than a minute.

"Time is currency," said Anne Hatfield, Walmart's communications director. "Customers know they'll find the best price at Walmart, but they're looking at ways to save time and have convenience that is so important."

While Walmart already offers customer pickup of online orders at its stores, the use of a pickup tower is faster, she said.

Typically, when someone orders general merchandise online from Walmart and wants to go to the store for pick up, they go to a counter, wait in line and then someone retrieves the item for them.

With the pickup tower, shoppers get an email with a barcode, Hatfield said. They walk up to the tower located at the front of the store, scan the barcode and the item automatically comes out, she said.

"They don't have to stand in line," Hatfield said. "It's one more way of saving time."

The pickup tower is 16 feet tall and eight feet around, with shelves inside that hold up to 300 pieces of ordered merchandise, she said.

Most items ordered online are about the size of a small microwave oven or smaller, Hatfield said.

With oversized items, customers still have to go to a pickup desk, she said.

Todd Suchy, the Ooltewah store's manager, said that as technology changes, so does how people shop.

"The pilot phase for this pickup tower was so successful that Walmart is expanding it to additional locations across the country," he said.

Hatfield said Walmart is bringing innovation to its Tennessee stores. Another feature Walmart is using at a Nashville store is called "scan and go."

In-store patrons can pick up a hand-held scanner or use their cellphones to scan items as they shop, Hatfield said.

"It brings a running total of the items as you're shopping," she said. "You know what your bill will be."

When finished shopping, customers go to a self-checkout location and pay as they normally would, Hatfield said.

"It's all about making shopping easy for customers," she said. "It's giving them a choice."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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