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Walmart said yesterday that it plans "to build warehouses at its stores where self-driving robots will fetch groceries and have them ready for shoppers to pick up in an hour or less," according to a story from the Associated Press.

The AP writes that "Walmart hopes the warehouses will speed up curbside pickups, where orders are brought outside to shoppers’ cars. Both options became increasingly popular as virus-weary shoppers avoid going inside stores. At the start of the pandemic last year, Walmart said delivery and pickup sales grew 300%."

Walmart tested the first such warehouse at a store in Salem, New Hampshire, more than a year ago, and now has begun construction on new units in Lewisville, Texas; Plano, Texas; American Fork, Utah; and Bentonville, Arkansas.

The AP notes that the technology is similar to that used by Amazon in its warehouses, adding, "Walmart said the robots save time since employees don’t have to walk store aisles to find items. Workers will, however, have to go into the store to pick out fresh groceries, such as meat, fish and vegetables. They’ll also have to grab TVs, vacuum cleaners and other large items that are too large for the robots to carry."

KC's View:

This is very smart, especially if we accept the premise that the change in consumer behavior that has accelerated the e-commerce segment will persist even when the pandemic ends.  Stores will need to be reconfigured to adapt to these shifts, and it is better to start figuring this out now rather than later.