By Richa Naidu
CHICAGO – Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it plans to hire more than 3,000 U.S. delivery drivers and build out a fleet of all-electric delivery vans to support its “in-home” grocery delivery service, its latest investment in its last-mile fulfillment network.
The retailer, which said it has about 100 drivers at present, expects to be able to reach 30 million homes by the end of the year. It now services 6 million homes.
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart in 2019 launched its InHome delivery service through which workers deliver groceries directly into shoppers’ homes, sometimes placing items straight into kitchens or garage refrigerators when people are not in the house.
The driver uses a one-time access code to unlock the customers’ doors or garages through an app that pairs with a “smart” entry lock.
Fearing COVID-19, many shoppers have turned to online grocery delivery since the start of the pandemic, sparking aggressive competition in the industry from the likes of Amazon.com Inc’s Whole Foods, Instacart and Uber Technologies Inc.
Walmart has experimented for years with last-mile delivery options. In 2017, for instance, Walmart established a program through which its own store employees would bring online orders directly to shoppers’ homes after completing their usual shifts on sales floors.
In August, ahead of the U.S. holiday shopping season, Walmart launched a last-mile delivery service for other merchants. Last year, it also tested company-branded “last-mile” delivery vans, taking a page from Amazon’s playbook as online demand pressures United Parcel Service, FedEx Corp and the U.S. Postal Service.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)