The Friday Checkout is a weekly column providing more insight on the news, rounding up the announcements you may have missed and sharing what’s to come.
Viewed one way, it’s a bit odd to see Walmart roll out Walmart Rewards, the cashback program it announced this week for its paid membership service.
Walmart has always prided itself on having the lowest prices in its stores and online, and the company has long resisted loyalty and rewards programs because of this. Also, are the members paying $98 annually for Walmart+ really the best audience for a major savings push?
“This is a very unWalmart-like move,” Ken Fenyo, president of research and advisory at Coresight Research, wrote on LinkedIn.
Then again, who doesn’t love racking up item-level savings at the click — or tap — of a button? Walmart Rewards has a fun, gamification quality to it, and launches at a time when consumers of all income levels are hunting for some extra cash. And, as Fenyo points out, Walmart has closely tied the program to its media business, meaning suppliers will likely fund a large chunk of the savings.
More than anything, Walmart Rewards further highlights just how badly the company wants to have a successful membership program similar to Amazon Prime. Over the past several months, Walmart has rolled out a slew of additional perks for the program, which launched in 2020, including tie-ups with Paramount+ and Spotify.
A lot of these perks have felt incremental, though, and lack the “wow” factor to really juice signups. Could Walmart Rewards be the perk that finally moves the needle for Walmart+?
The program could certainly use a shot in the arm: Walmart hasn’t revealed the number of Walmart+ members it has, but a Morgan Stanley survey in May pegged it at 16 million. Amazon Prime, meanwhile, has more than 200 million members worldwide.
In case you missed it
Instacart shines star-studded spotlight on shoppable content
Instacart wants its customers feeling good as hell with a new brand campaign focused on “inspirational shopping content.” With singer and musician Lizzo as the face of “The World is Your Cart” campaign, which launched earlier this week, the grocery technology company is promoting celebrity-fueled product discovery.
Called simply “Carts,” the new in-app feature lets customers shop curated lists. From the app’s home feed, customers can choose to “Shop Lizzo’s cart” and then select the store for which they want to see Lizzo-backed items. Other “Carts” include “Self Care Sunday,” “Late Night Noms” and “Date Night.”
This aspirational advertising appears to be another bid by Instacart to appeal to younger consumers. But if “The World is Your Cart,” as Instacart says, how do substitutions factor in? Truth hurts.
C-store chain mimics farmers markets
Alltown Fresh, a Boston-based convenience store chain, has linked up with Mable, an online wholesale grocery platform, on sourcing local products, per an announcement earlier this week.
With more than 3,000 local, emerging brands on its platform, Mable will help Alltown Fresh consolidate and manage sourcing from local vendors online. The platform has a streamlined invoicing process, mobile reordering technology and in-house wholesale experts who provide recommendations for products and brands.
“[The] partnership revolutionizes the consumer convenience store experience by prioritizing local, healthier brands over traditional CPG brands that have historically dominated the space,” the announcement noted.
Grocers, particularly specialty ones, who have long made fresh foods, nutrition and local sourcing their prized gems to draw customers in, are facing increasing competition from the likes of c-store chains, like Alltown Fresh, and discounters that are upping the ante on healthier offerings.
Kroger selects new and emerging brands for cohort
From a selection of 1,600 applicants and then 15 finalists, the grocer chose five brands for its second annual Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator:
- Coro Foods: a women-owned charcuterie company based in Kent, Washington
- The Ugly Company: a Kingsburg, California-based brand that turns upcycled fruits into dried fruit snacks
- Hiatus: a premium cheesecake maker in Baltimore
- j. berry Nursery & Genetics: a nursery based in Grand Saline, Texas, specializing in hibiscus, crape myrtles and begonias
- Zacca Hummus: a maker of traditional-style Mediterranean hummus based in Boise, Idaho
The selected brands will receive mentorship from Gourmet Foods International and DPI Specialty Foods and products from this year’s cohort will land on Kroger’s in-store and virtual shelves next year, per the announcement on Thursday.
Kroger says the supplier accelerator has helped to boost the grocer’s selection of local items across its banners and is part of its broader plans to support supplier diversity, including a pledge to invest $10 billion in diverse suppliers by 2030.
Number of the week: 9.6 million
That’s the number of TikTok views that videos about a Sprouts Farmers Market deli sandwich offer have accumulated since July, according to the Arizona Republic.
In the video clips, which use the hashtag #sproutssandwich, shoppers gush over the meal deal, which include a made-to-order sandwich, a bag of chips and a bottle of water for $5.99. A sandwich alone costs $4.99, the newspaper noted.
As they show off their sandwiches in the videos, shoppers highlight the amount of food they get for their money, with one video maker calling the sandwich “the cheapest lunch I’ve probably ever bought.” Another customer called the sandwich offering “the coolest thing ever.”
Shoppers can choose from fillings including turkey, roast beef, ham, pastrami and tuna salad, as well as a cheese and condiments such as lettuce, tomato and red onion, according to an image of the order form in one of the videos.
John Mackey steps down as CEO of Whole Foods
After leading Whole Foods Market since founding the specialty grocery chain more than 40 years ago, John Mackey will be retiring as CEO of the company next Wednesday. Chief Operating Officer Jason Buechel, who has served in that position since 2019, will take over the reins of the Amazon-owned grocer.
Buechel told a forum hosted in July by The Wall Street Journal that he intends to “reignite the connection to our higher purpose, mission and core values with our team members,” adding that the company has faced multiple “distractions” since its acquisition by Amazon in 2017, according to a report published by Forbes.
Employment stats are due
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release hiring data for August on Thursday. The figures will include the closely watched unemployment rate, which fell to 3.5% in July, and shed light on the number of people grocers and other employers have added to their payrolls during the past month.
C-Store Dive is coming
Industry Dive’s latest publication, C-Store Dive, is set to launch next month. Be sure to sign up for the daily newsletter, which will hit email inboxes on Sept. 19.