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Walmart uses robots to keep store shelves full

BY DSN STAFF

The discount giant is using a shelf-scanning robot to detect out-of-stock items, incorrect prices and wrong or missing labels. The initiative is an effort to automate tasks that are repeatable, predictable and manual for its associates, Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing said in the retailer’s blog, Walmart Today.
Using data and vision technology, the wheeled robot roams store aisles ready to simplify routine, but time-consuming tasks. On-hand robots are making it easier for personal shoppers to fulfill online orders, as well as freeing up associates to serve in-store shoppers, according to a video on the blog.
“When it comes to technology, we are pushing the boundaries through robotics and artificial intelligence [AI],” Walmart said in the video.
In a Reuters report, Jeremy King, chief technology officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, said, “The robots are 50% more productive than their human counterparts, and can scan shelves significantly more accurately and three times faster.”
He added that the robots would not replace workers or impact employee headcount.
Walmart began testing the technology in a small number of stores in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and California. Based on positive results, the retailer is now expanding the robots to an additional 50 locations.
“This combination of people and technology is helping make our stores more convenient and easier to shop, ensuring that products are available when our customers want them,” Rushing said. “It’s just another example of how we’re using technology to save our associates and customers time.”
The discounter plans to rely on feedback from associates and customers to decide “how and where we use this technology in the future,” he added.
This is not Walmart’s first try at adding automated, robotic solutions. The discounter continues to expand its fleet of “Pickup Towers,” massive orange vending machines where shoppers can retrieve their online orders in less than a minute.
The discounter was also recently granted a patent that would allow the chain to use drones to shuttle merchandise between departments and dedicated delivery locations within its stores. Walmart has not confirmed a test for this solution.
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Reports: CVS Health in talks to acquire health insurer Aetna

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Rumors of a blockbuster deal in which CVS Health would acquire Aetna circulated late Thursday, driving shares of Aetna up 12.7% to $180.48 per share.

According to reports, the deal could value the health insurer at upward of $66 billion.

"As a matter of policy we don’t comment on market rumors such as this," a CVS Health spokesperson shared with Drug Store News. Aetna had declined similar requests for comment, according to reports.

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Meijer’s grocery deliveries hit half million

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The grocery and general merchandise retailer recently surpassed 500,000 deliveries, and is on-pace to make more than a million deliveries by year-end. Meijer launched its grocery delivery service in September 2016.

The program, which kicked off in 25 stores in Detroit, expanded to more than 200 stores in just 148 days. To date, the service is available to more than 10 million households in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, Meijer reported.

Leveraging its relationship with on-demand grocery delivery provider Shipt, Meijer customers can shop more than 55,000 items using the Shipt app in iOS or Android, or online. A Shipt shopper will hand pick their items and deliver them in as little as one hour after the order is placed.

To date, more than 85,000 cases of water, 1 million eggs and 1.5 million pounds of bananas have been delivered, according to the retailer.

“As e-commerce continues to change the way people shop, we are proud to bring home delivery to the Midwest and innovate the way people shop our stores,” Meijer president and CEO Rick Keyes said. “Our goal was to quickly bring a high level of convenience to as many customers as possible, so surpassing a half million deliveries is a great start as we continue enhancing this personalized customer-first experience.”

Keyes also credits the program’s success on its broad product assortment. Categories span fresh produce and grocery to general merchandise, including daily essential items like light bulbs, diapers, school supplies. They can also order bulk items, like bags of rock salt and pet foods, normally found at specialty stores.

The Shipt delivery service is membership-based. For either $99 a year or a monthly fee, Shipt members receive unlimited free grocery deliveries on all orders over $35. Orders under this threshold are subject to a $7 delivery fee.

Delivery service members can also earn mPerks Rewards that can be redeemed in store. The Shipt app also gives members access to Meijer’s weekly sales prices.

Meijer operates 235 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

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