Say you’re on vacation and forgot the sunscreen. The last thing you want to do is walk through a sprawling supercenter like Walmart, which takes up the equivalent of three football fields, only to find yourself stuck in a line behind half a dozen people with carts stacked to the brim.
This summer, the nation’s largest retailer is starting to test tiny stores in popular vacation destinations like Big Bear Lake, California, and the Catskill Mountains in New York. It’s part of a partnership with a startup called Getaway, which rents out tiny nature homes.
The new stores, which will be called General Store by Walmart, will offer shoppers items they may have forgotten to pack or realized they wanted while on vacation – lip balm, sunscreen, hiking gear, blankets, cast iron pans and old fashioned cameras. . They will also feature items from local small businesses.
“These may be our furthest stores,” said Casey Schlaybaugh, vice president of brand marketing at Walmart US. “They are in the woods and are so cute.”
Walmart plans five such stores by the end of the year, with the first location opening in Texas Hill Country, outside Austin and San Antonio, in August. This store will carry Texas Hill Country olive oil and Slow North candles. Additional locations are planned for Big Bear, the Catskills, the Ozarks and Connecticut in September and October.
The idea is that customers don’t have to spend valuable vacation time running around town to stock up. “We’re trying to make sure we’re giving people time back and allowing them to protect their time,” said Jon Staff, founder and CEO of Getaway, which has 28 locations within two hours of major cities. “Guests will have even more of what they need without having to leave the property.”
The new stores are part of Walmart’s larger focus on doing more in the home space, according to Schlaybaugh. She leads a new team in charge of signing partnerships with other brands. Although she declined to provide information on what form this might take in the future, it’s not hard to imagine Walmart opening micro-stores in hotels and resorts. It has certainly been a lucrative path for Starbucks.
It’s also a marketing game. For example, Getaway will send its customers (mostly millennials) an email before their trip with packing recommendations and a link to Walmart’s website. Upon arrival, they will receive a S’mores kit from Walmart. A pitch to join Walmart+, the company’s membership program, will also be waiting, along with the sound of the crackling campfire and cicadas.