Walmart on Campus to Open at Arizona State in May

Published in CSP Daily News

Does concept have potential to graduate beyond tests?

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., will be home to the second Walmart on Campus concept convenience store, company officials said. It is scheduled to open in May.

The first Walmart on Campus opened at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in January 2011. A previously announced location at Georgia Tech in Atlanta is slated to open sometime next year.

The stores are part of a pilot program designed to provide students and faculty, as well as the surrounding neighborhood, with more convenient access to affordable products.

"Walmart on Campus is a small-format test store that allows us to bring our low prices to students in a convenient location. With a full-service pharmacy, basic grocery, financial services and Site-to-Store, Arizona State will be able to enjoy many of the great services they would at our larger formats without leaving campus," said store manager Mario Espino.

The ASU store, to be located in the Vista del Sol plaza, will also feature health and wellness services, general convenience items and merchandise tailored to the campus, all at Walmart's "everyday low prices."

The 5,093-square foot Arizona State University Walmart on Campus will employ approximately 10 associates and provide access to all Walmart health and wellness services, including a full-service pharmacy and signature $4 generic prescription program; the pharmacy will serve most insurance plans. It will also offer Walmart financial services, including check cashing and bill pay, as well as Site-to-Store delivery of select items purchased online at Walmart.com.

Charles Schmidt of the National Association of College Stores said that campus bookstores need not be afraid of Walmart, according to a report by Inside Higher Ed. "In general, while competition can make you work harder, it likewise keeps you sharp and forces you to be a smarter, more efficient retailer," he said. "Students already are going to big-box discounters, but at least if they're in the same vicinity as your store, they are more liable to come in and give you the chance to 'show them what you've got.' Kind of a 'mall' effect."

But college bookstores should be "very afraid" of Wal-Mart moving on campus, a report by WallStreetCheatSheet.com countered. "Late-night food places and convenience stores can be added to the long list of stores that should be worried Walmart will take business away. College students thrive on cheap meals and rubbing pennies together. What retailer is a more welcome sight for the broke college student than Wal-Mart?"

It said, "Wal-Mart is facing criticism from various groups for venturing into the world of higher education, but that won't prevent it from undercutting prices offered at local Ma and Pa stores. If the college campus stores prove to be a valuable asset for Walmart, they could be rolling back prices at higher learning institutions across the country."

Walmart spokesperson Delia Garcia told Inside Higher Ed that the company is still "testing this format," and as such there are no concrete plans beyond the Georgia Tech location. "The store will not carry textbooks, but will stock merchandise that is relevant for the on-campus customer, such as school supplies," she said.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. currently operates approximately 3,100 Supercenter locations, along with about 230 Walmart Neighborhood Markets and 17 Walmart Express stores.

Meanwhile, the National Association of College Stores (not to be confused with the NACS that is the National Association of Convenience Stores) has formed a subsidiary that it said is dedicated to helping independent college stores evolve and thrive.

The new entity, indiCo LLC, is focused on retail innovation, merchandising strategy and data analytics specifically for the benefit of independent college stores. Formerly known as NACS Media Solutions, the new entity also includes NACS' Business Development, Information Technology and OnCampus Research divisions.

"NACS has always been, and will continue to be, a strong advocate for the entire collegiate retailing industry," said CEO Brian E. Cartier. "The creation of indiCo ensures that the necessary resources are dedicated to providing research, products and services that will meet the specific needs of this important segment of the industry."

"indiCo will become a centralized source of business support dedicated to independent college stores," noted deputy CEO Ed Schlichenmayer, who will also serve as indiCo's president. "It will also help them adopt shared strategies and practices, introduce new retailing opportunities and provide leadership and innovation on issues that are critical to their success."

Based in Oberlin, Ohio, the National Association of College Stores is the professional trade association representing the collegiate retailing industry. It represents nearly 3,000 collegiate retailers and approximately 1,000 associate members who supply books and other products to college stores.