Walmart is planning to increase the number of local fulfillment centers across the United States, it announced on Wednesday. Walmart’s approach of more localized fulfillment centers is a direct parallel to Amazon’s strategy, as both companies continue to face off amid an increasing demand for online orders. The new fulfillment centers are warehouses that will either be built within or adjacent to its existing retail locations.
Walmart’s first fulfillment center opened in 2019 in Salem, New Hampshire, when the retail giant started piloting the concept. These warehouses use wheeled robots — called Alphabots — to pick items from the shelves and prepare orders placed online.
Alphabots will retrieve items ordered online such as boxed or frozen items. However, the company said that its human employees would still be tasked with grabbing fresh items like meat and produce in addition to larger items.
Walmart is piloting new technologies for some of its fulfillment centers, such as an automated curbside pickup feature, which will allow buyers or delivery drivers to drive up to a specific location, scan a code, grab their order, and go, all without leaving their vehicles.
Walmart hasn’t said which locations will receive fulfillment center add-ons, but the company announced in its blog post that it’s already planning “dozens of locations, with many more to come.”