Katy Mills Walmart goes on an fulfillment diet!

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today we’re taking a look at a new phenomenon in retail, a ‘hybrid store.’ This Wal-Mart at 25108 Market Place Drive in Katy, originally opened around 2000, is a beast of a store. A true Hypermarket, coming in at over 200,000 square feet. The store was typical in terms of size, selection, and layout when it was constructed. However, within the past ten or so years, new Super Center locations have shrunk back down closer to 100,000 Square Feet. While many of the mega stores outside of the Houston area were shuttered in 2016 closings, just as many of these massive locations have stuck around. Even with the deep roots Super Walmart has managed to put down in Houston, these mega stores are still outmoded. With the growing demand for services like online pickup orders, Wal-Mart has decided to convert a little under 1/4 of the sales floor into a new fulfillment center. The fulfillment center will stock thousands of the most commonly ordered items, including groceries. The purpose is to reduce or potentially eliminate the need for online shoppers to retrieve products from the sales floor.

The red outlines show the area of the sales floor closed off for the Market Fulfillment Center. The small hallway towards the rear of the store is the Automotive section and leads to the Auto Center.

 

This sounds like a great idea, especially for anyone whose shopped at HEB lately, where the numerous personal shopper carts can often be found being quickly pushed around their stores. It’s no surprise then that HEB is also investing in Micro Fulfillment Centers. HEB’s first Houston-area “EFC” as they term it, is set to open at the corner of Franz and Elrod, about 5 miles away from the Katy Mills Walmart. Unlike Wal-Mart’s hybrid concept, this EFC is in a non-accessible building, which presumably will not be open to shoppers. Unlike Wal-Mart, HEB puts an emphasis on delivery as well as pickup. As part of Walmart’s integration of its fulfillment center, many changes were made to the store’s layout. The largest of which was the reduction of several departments. Mostly hardlines, like Automotive, Hardware, and Sporting Goods. While the floorspace of these departments has been greatly reduced, the selection still manages to match that of a larger store.

This will be an interesting experiment. At the moment, this is the third Wal-Mart ‘MFC’ conversion in Texas, with the other two locations being in Arlington and Irving. Compared to the available photos of the Irving location, the Katy conversion is a bit, well lacking. Although it’s obvious that this update is not yet fully complete, some portions appear, like the auto center, appear to be mostly complete and objectively not as nice. We still have yet to see what else will be done to this store, but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless. It’s also proof that brick-and-mortar retail is not truly dying, but it is definitely pivoting.

5 comments

  1. I live outside Washington, DC on the Virginia side. We have one Supercenter that is 220,000 sq feet. The store is in the process of getting the same remodel that you describe in this post. The store was really too big in the first place. Reducing the floor space has actually made the store a bit easier to shop just from the standpoint of not having to walk a mile to get things on the ends of the store. I’ll be curious to see how these new fulfillment centers work out. The Walmart up here that is getting one is near large amounts of residential development so there should be plenty of potential customers. None of the other Supercenters in the area are large enough for this sort of remodel. They are all 100,000-150,000 sq feet. The smaller Supercenters all now have dedicated storage areas in the front of the store for grocery, pharmacy and other sorts of pick up with exterior access. The parking for pickup is very close to the pickup storage which makes the process pretty efficient.

    1. It seems to have been a victim of the April 2021 closings where hundreds of McDonald’s Walmart locations were shutdown. These plans seem to have existed for years, due to the lack of a drive-thru, but COVID supposedly sped up the plans, as many customers switched to online pickup.

      As for how Charley’s ended up there, individual franchisees are able to lease the space for any restaurant willing to have a location inside of a Walmart.

  2. How is it that such an ugly looking store has a ‘Beauty’ department? Perhaps ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is an apt way to describe that!

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