Walmart opened a Walmart Fuel Station in Plano, Texas, on July 11 and is planning to extend its reach into the convenience-store channel this year.
Along with eight fuel pumps, the new 2,900-square-foot c-store features a large assortment of grab-and-go deli items, including snacks, fruits, cheeses and more; breakfast and lunch sandwiches; pizza by the slice, roller dogs and other hot foods; fresh doughnuts, baked and glazed on-site daily; a wall of cold beverages; and a walk-in beer cooler, Walmart spokesperson Anne Hatfield told CSP Daily News, WGB's sister site.
“The Plano fuel station is similar to fuel stations we recently opened in Crowley, Texas, and Rogers, Ark.,” she said. “We are planning three similar fuel stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro, in Lake Worth, Arlington and The Colony. We expect the Lake Worth, Arlington and The Colony fuel stations to open for customers by the end of the year.”
So far, the Bentonville, Ark.-based big-box chain has only dabbled in the c-store channel. But the opening of the new location in Plano marks a revisiting of the strategy. Here is a history of Walmart’s experiments with convenience-like formats.
A version of this story appeared previously on WGB's sister site, CSP Daily News.
Supercenter Fuel Stations
Walmart debuted a new c-store concept for its Supercenters in 2017, with the two 2,500-square-foot pilot locations in Rogers, Ark., and Crowley, Texas.
“Similar to Plano [pictured], Crowley and Rogers, these additional fuel stations will be constructed in the parking lots of Supercenters that did not previously have a fuel station,” Hatfield said of the newly announced fuel stations.
The stores are larger than the company’s previous fuel kiosks located in the parking lots of many of its Supercenters.
In early 2016, Walmart curtailed a 20-year relationship with Murphy USA, announcing that going forward it would build and operate its own gas stations rather than continue to farm them out to the El Dorado, Ark.-based company. Murphy USA will continue to run the more than 1,000 branded locations it already has in Walmart parking lots.
Walmart would not confirm whether the company intended for the new c-store format to be the replacement for those sites.
Walmart introduced the now-defunct Walmart Express small-store format in 2011 in Gentry, Ark. At 15,000 square feet, the concept was less than one-tenth of the size of a typical Walmart supercenter, which averages about 184,000 square feet.
The stores offered basic grocery and convenience items and other merchandise, although the selection was less than a 10th of what a Superstore carries. The stores also featured pharmacies, and some sold gasoline.
Walmart announced in 2016 that it would close and sell its 102 Walmart Express locations among a total of 269 other stores of various formats in the United States and globally as part of a strategic realignment.
It sold 41 of the sites to Dollar General and converted others to its Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery format.
Walmart on Campus
Walmart opened a 3,000-square-foot Walmart on Campus convenience store at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., in 2011. With an emphasis on price, its product mix focused on snacks, drinks and fast food, including ramen noodles, power bars, frozen pizza and soda.
It has opened a total of five Walmart on Campus sites, at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
Walmart to Go
Walmart has opened a lone Walmart to Go c-store in its home base of Bentonville, Ark., in 2014. It is a 5,200-square-foot traditional c-store with six canopied gasoline dispensers.
The retailer partnered with Bentonville Butcher & Deli to operate a deli counter in the back of the store. There are soda and frozen drink fountains, milkshakes and a full coffee bar.
Refrigerated food-to-go includes market fresh pizzas, sandwiches and other meat entrees. There is also fresh fruit and a Greek yogurt smoothie station. The store offers beer and wine in a walk-in cooler, as well as frozen food.
The small grocery component includes five aisles with hundreds of packaged foods and nonfood items from breakfast cereals to dog food and diapers. Shirley's Flowers has a fresh flowers kiosk near the front doors next to the Hallmark Cards. The store also has Krispy Kreme doughnuts, magazines, books and an ATM, as well as interior and exterior seating areas.
The center of the store closely resembles a traditional c-store with cashiers in a corral with a wide range of tobacco products.
Walmart Pickup With Fuel
In 2016, Walmart opened two 4,000-square-foot Walmart Pickup With Fuel c-stores in Huntsville, Ala., and Thornton, Colo.
The format “is a hybrid approach where customers can pick up their online grocery orders, fuel their vehicle and grab a coffee, soft drink, hot and healthy snacks or other convenience items—all in one spot and all at Walmart’s everyday low prices,” the company said. It also offers basics such as milk, eggs and bread.
Walmart personal shoppers fulfill online grocery orders from local Walmart Supercenters.