Walmart unrolls grocery delivery subscription after Tampa trial. It’s a lot like Instacart.

The mega chain says the program will be available to 50 percent of the country by the end of 2019.
The exterior of the Walmart Supercenter located at 1505 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.
The exterior of the Walmart Supercenter located at 1505 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. [ URSO, CHRIS | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sept. 12, 2019

After testing out its grocery delivery subscription “Delivery Unlimited" in Tampa Bay and a handful of other metro areas, Walmart is expanding the Instacart-like program to 1,400 stores this fall.

Walmart’s grocery delivery program has grown nationwide, but the new launch means shoppers have the option to get annual or monthly subscriptions without having to pay per-order delivery fees. Tampa shoppers have had access to the program since earlier this year when Walmart first began to pilot it.

Without a subscription, grocery delivery orders have to meet a minimum of $30 and have an added $7.95 delivery fee. The unlimited program charges $12.95 per month or $98 for an entire year — just the flat rate regardless of how many orders are placed each month.

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“We’ve been investing in our online grocery business by quickly expanding our Grocery Pickup and Delivery services. Delivery Unlimited is the next step in that journey,” Tom Ward, the chain’s senior vice president of digital operations, said in a statement.

Walmart’s subscription plan is another way to stay up on its competition — especially against Amazon, which set the tone for grocery delivery in 2014 with the addition of PrimeNow. The annual Prime membership might cost $119, but it includes fast shipping on thousands of Prime items, a streaming service and other perks.

RELATED STORY: After trial in Tampa, Walmart begins nationwide grocery delivery

Walmart’s biggest advantage is how accessible it is to most Americans. Amazon relies on Whole Foods, which has a limited footprint, to service its grocery orders. Walmart says it will have the unlimited delivery program available to more than 1,600 stores and 50 percent of the country by the end of 2019.

Instacart — which has partnerships with stores such as Aldi and Publix — charges $9.99 for its comparable monthly plan and $99 for its annual plan. Instacart, like Walmart, doesn’t require a membership to use its service. Without one, delivery fees range from $3.99 to $5.99 — and there’s also added service fees and tips for drivers.

Instacart also has launched grocery pickup at Publix and select Aldi locations in the area with fewer added fees, but that’s something Walmart has offered to customers for free for a while.

Meanwhile, Target bought out gig delivery company Shipt to handle its grocery delivery with comparable fees to Walmart and Instarcart. Store employees handle a free drive-up service for non-perishables.