KENDALLVILLE — Think of it like a big vending machine, but it only carries the stuff that you pick.
Walmart’s new pickup tower in Kendallville is a little hard to miss. Sitting inside the west-side doors, the 16-foot tower in bright orange dominates the skyline inside the retailer.
It’s been drawing a lot of looks, creating a lot of questions and, more and more every day, becoming more popular.
Kendallville is about one of 20 Walmart stores in Indiana to get one of the new pickup towers, which allow people to place orders via the web and then quickly scan in and grab their items at the tower in the store.
Many retailers are moving away from the traditional shop, scan and bag model and utilizing technology to allow store associates to do the work of going around the store picking out items for you. Walmart is getting into that game now with the pickup tower and also plans to launch a carside-to-go grocery pickup in Kendallville this spring.
Courtney Lester, department manager for e-commerce, and Josh Putt, e-commerce assistant manager at Kendallville Walmart, said the new pickup is making it quicker and easier to do your shopping than ever.
“A lot of (retail) is going to the e-commerce side,” Putt said.
The service works pretty easily. Shoppers go online and look for the merchandise — not groceries — that they need and add it to a cart. Those items may already be in the store and available for “pickup today,” otherwise they can be ordered site-to-store.
Once your order is placed and paid for online, Walmart associates will go and gather up the items.
If you ordered stuff that’s already in the store, typically the Walmart shoppers can have everything selected and loaded into the pickup tower within an hour. If your order has items that are being shipped in, you’ll get a estimate of when it will be ready.
When your order is ready, you walk in, scan a bar code at the tower and the dispenser will grab your items and feed them out to you kind of like a vending machine.
The service is free. There’s no extra charge to have Walmart workers shop for you.
Not only does the pickup tower save you the effort of finding everything yourself, sometimes you can get savings, too, Lester said.
“Sometimes its actually cheaper, because items will be cheaper online,” Lester said. “Or, if it’s marked down in the store, it will automatically give you the lower price.”
Walmart has already had in-store pickup for some items, but previously people had to walk all the way to the back of the store and get an associate to grab their order. That may still be the case for larger items, Putt said — they can’t cram a 55-inch TV into the tower or the nearby lockers for larger items — but smaller stuff can be picked up at the front of the store without any human assistance.
The pickup tower has been in use at Kendallville Walmart since the beginning of March and it’s gaining popularity, Putt said. Most customers find it pretty easy to use and convenient, he said.
“It’s getting the customers adjusted to it,” he said. “It’s been picking up, foot traffic-wise.”