Walmart in warehouse robot roll-out

US retail giant Walmart plans to add small robot-staffed warehouses to dozens of its stores to help fill orders for pickup and delivery, the company has said.

The robots will work behind the scenes, picking frozen and refrigerated foods as well as smaller general merchandise items from inside the warehouses, or local centres, that will carry “thousands of frequently purchased items.”

Store staff, meanwhile, will go to the sales floor to fetch fresh produce, meat, seafood and larger general merchandise items like large-screen TVs, before returning to the centres to finish assembling orders, the company said.

The world’s largest retailer, which operates nearly 5,000 stores nationwide, did not say how many stores will have the new centers but said it was “planning dozens of locations, with many more to come.”

“We don’t see the use of these services changing in the future — we expect that we’ll continue to serve more and more customers who have come to rely on pickup and delivery,” Tom Ward, SVP of customer product for Walmart US, said on a conference call.

Walmart began testing similar automated technology in late 2019 at a store in Salem, New Hampshire and found that orders can be filled in “just a few minutes,” Ward said.

Contactless services like home delivery have boomed as shoppers have opted to stay home and make purchases online, with Americans shifting their spending online amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The trend has fuelled record digital sales at major retailers such as Target Corp and Best Buy. Walmart has also seen sales boom.