Grounded fliers feeling nostalgic about walking through airports will find some solace in Walmart’s new store designs. The giant retail chain is getting inspiration from airports as it revamps the layout and signage of its stores to speed up shopping and better cater to smartphone-armed customers.
The nation’s largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, said that the look, which includes signs with bold dimensional typeface spotlighting sections, is currently in one store. It will be rolled out to 200 stores by early next year, with plans to add another 800 stores by early 2022.
Just like you see at modern airports, Walmart will employ digital information boards at entryways that direct shoppers to the main store sections. Like airline gate numbering schemes, Walmart says its aisles will feature letter and number combinations to guide customers from their phones to store sections and products. Outdoor parking lot pick-up zone signage will include overhead banners that look very similar to what you see at airport parking lots. (See slideshow above for the new look)
Walmart says it was working on a new store layout a year ago. But the pandemic accelerated those efforts shoppers, like airline passengers, are increasingly focused on contactless interactions amid COVID-19 hygiene concerns.
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“We were inspired by airport wayfinding systems as best-in-class examples of how to navigate large groups of people,” says Janey Whiteside, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Walmart’s U.S. division, in a corporate blog.
As part of the overall signage, the exterior and interior of the stores will reflect the Walmart app icon. As customers enter the store, they will see colorful iconography and a store directory that encourages them to download and use the app while they shop.
It’s also featuring dedicated sections within the store for toys, baby products and other areas. Shoppers who don’t use their smartphones for shopping will still benefit with the bigger signs, which will help them find items, Whiteside noted.
SFGATE senior travel correspondent Chris McGinnis contributed to this story.