How Gulf Coast Walmart Stores Ride the Summer Wave

By John Tow
June 16, 2017
Two women shopping for beach equipment

I don’t know about you, but when I take a vacation to the coast, my clock changes to beach time.

I want to be able to relax and take it easy—and part of that means having everything I need, from essentials like beach towels and sunscreen, to fun toys and food for my family.

That’s why Walmart teams in stores across the Gulf Coast work hard throughout the year to ensure that our summertime customers can quickly access the items that help them achieve the vacation experience they’re looking for.

With nearly 60,000 tourists adding to the population of Destin, Florida, every summer, it’s no surprise that people compare the energy of the area’s store to Black Friday. Families and large groups pour in weekly to stock their condos and beach houses, and with so many of the same items in high demand, timing is essential to ensure that the products people want are easily available.

Because we know the summer rush lasts about 10 weeks (and, unlike Black Friday, isn’t over after one day), it’s important that we start preparing for the season early. Even though hometown customers are still relying on their local store for other big seasonal needs like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, the associates begin preparing for beach season right after it ends – in October – so we can be sure that each location is able to supply enough of the right items at the right time.

Something that makes this goal especially challenging is the simple fact that these beach stores can’t just copy the one in the next state over – there is no blueprint, and the needs of our customers are unlike those of other stores across the U.S. We make sure to keep the shelves stocked with the items you’d expect, such as beach toys and boogie boards, but we also need to work closely with our buyers to make sure we’re staying on top of the changing needs of each year’s vacationers.

Some of the most popular items are almost tradition, and we can expect a lot of requests for them every year – like small fishing nets and flashlights that kids use to scavenge for sand crabs at night with their families. However, we’re also constantly looking for popular newer items: Paying attention to trends, we can expect that our customers won’t play music on the beach with portable radios, but will be looking for Bluetooth technology items. Even typical items found in any store can be unexpectedly important to our summer shoppers, with grocery staples like pineapple juice becoming a quickly moving part of our inventory.

All the thought and preparation it takes to make beach season run smoothly wouldn’t be possible without the tremendous amount of teamwork and positivity that comes from the associates who work in our stores. In fact, our Gulf Shores, Alabama, supercenter team won an award for outstanding performance in the region just two years back. When you’re proud to be a team and work together, you’ve got what it takes to meet a crazy challenge like beach season on the Gulf Coast—and to make sure that Sam Walton’s philosophy that the customer is No. 1 is still the foundation of our system.