- Walmart has designated 7 to 8 a.m. daily as a grocery pickup hour only for customers 60 and over, first responders, those with disabilities and other high-risk shoppers, the company announced in a press release.
- Customers who meet the requirements for the pickup time can select the "at risk only" slot when they are placing their order online or in the Walmart Grocery app. Pickup associates are using enhanced distancing and sanitation procedures, and all Walmart pickup points will be contact-free, the retailer said.
- Walmart says it's also working with the USDA to enable online payments for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers in several states that offer the service, including Arizona, New York and Washington. The USDA launched the online payment pilot last year, and ten states currently participate. Walmart currently lets SNAP recipients at all 3,300 stores that offer pickup pay when they collect their order.
While many grocers have slotted in-store shopping hours for seniors and other high-risk groups, Walmart is the first retailer to reserve a pickup hour for online orders on a national scale.
Ordering online can be a challenge for senior shoppers and others who are trying it for the first time. To help address this, Walmart created a one-minute YouTube video that guides customers through the curbside pickup process. The retailer also added a pop-up message that greets users when they visit Walmart.com/grocery, which has a guide to help first-time shoppers get started.
With a narrow one-hour window for high-risk populations, Walmart may face some timing issues. The grocer is already dealing with high demand, record app downloads and limited pickup slots, and while this move could alleviate some of the pressure, it is unlikely to eliminate wait times completely.
For example, areas like Florida with high numbers of retirees or cities like New Orleans that have been hit hard by COVID-19 could result in particularly high demand for the at-risk slots, which could cause orders to stack up. Walmart reiterated that high-risk shoppers can still access all pickup slots outside of the designated hour, as well.
Last week, Hy-Vee announced it would offer a one-hour dedicated pickup time each morning for at risk shoppers through its Aisles Online program. In March, H-E-B rolled out a dedicated delivery service for senior shoppers in Texas, complete with a call-in phone line.
Walmart also wants to better service the many SNAP customers that shop its stores. The number of states that offer online payments through the program has grown rapidly during the pandemic, with California, Arizona, Idaho and Florida recently joining several other states. Others, like Virginia and Illinois, are also pushing for inclusion.
Around 40 million Americans currently utilize SNAP dollars, and that number is set to grow as more than 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past month.