Walmart’s Instantly Responsive Inventory System Saves Christmas

Posted on December 26, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

Christmas has just ended, but the feeling still hangs in the air. One of the bright spots for me this holiday season was a visit to Walmart…that’s right… a visit to Walmart on the day before Christmas Eve fascinated me. Here’s why: they were instantly responsive.  My family and I were able to get in and out of our local Walmart in record time because of their hand-held inventory checking system. Here’s the story.

For my family, one priority for the holiday was to purchase folding chairs so we had more seating for guests. We looked all over for nice folding chairs. We didn’t want the usual metal or plastic type. We wanted something that looked a bit nicer than typical folding chairs and we found them at Walmart.

The first Walmart we visited only had three chairs and we needed six. We quickly put the three they had in our basket and hoped they had more in the back of the store.  An assistant manager happened to walk by and we asked if they had more chairs.  He whipped a handheld scanner off his belt, pointed it at the chairs’ barcode, and let us know that they were out of inventory. But from the same device he checked other Walmarts, and found another store who showed the chairs in stock. It was on our way home, so we went to a second Walmart that afternoon.

Unfortunately by the time we got there, that Walmart didn’t have any of the chairs out on the floor.  Undeterred, since we knew about this instant inventory search tool the staff had, we found Scott, an assistant manager in this second store.  He used the same device then let us know that there were some on the truck that they were unloading that night.  We made plans to come back the next morning to pick up the additional chairs.  Our friends were comfortably seated around our table for a game of Masterpiece that evening.

What struck me as so fascinating, of course, is the way Walmart was instantly able to tell us about their inventory in the back of their store and search the inventory in other stores from a handheld device on their belt.  Walmart has thousands of items in their inventory, and they are known for the use of technology to manage that inventory.  But they have implemented a system that actually helps shoppers in the moment, and that was something I had not seen in their store prior to this holiday season.

Many stores have inventory systems that are accessible if I wait in line at a customer service desk or at the check out.  During the week prior to Christmas, that would be a nightmare.  The Walmart system brings the inventory system to the customer in the aisle, and that turns a disappointing situation of “out of stock” into a customer-friendly “let me help you find that item” without having to wait in another line.

Walmart has taken a lot of criticism for many of their decisions, but in this case, I can personally vouch for the success of their decision to invest in the technology that lets them tell me and my family where we can find the chairs we desperately sought for our holiday games night.  By being instantly responsive, they both saved a sale of six chairs and gave me a great story to tell.  Thanks! and Happy Holidays!


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One Response to “Walmart’s Instantly Responsive Inventory System Saves Christmas”

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Hi Keri,

Nice post. Maybe one day we’ll be able to see directly into Wal-mart’s inventory with a scanner on our mobile devices and you won’t even need to track down a store manager.

Happy New Year!


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