Grocery wars in Florida: Publix vs. Walmart
Walmart’s Miami-Dade Battleship
On Black Friday — called “blitz day” in-house — 32,000 customers pass through Walmart’s doors in Doral in Miami-Dade County. It’s the biggest day in the biggest season. In bicycle sales alone, during the run-up to Christmas, this Walmart sells 1,000 a day. “We have to have 7,000 bikes built before we get to the end of October, or we can’t keep up,” says Eddie Marciniak, recently promoted from store manager to market manager.
Welcome to the busiest Walmart store on earth, a behemoth at 233,258 square feet. It’s said to be frequently No. 1 in sales among all Walmarts, foreign and domestic. Walmart won’t comment on that claim, but the store does lead the company in sales of electronics, produce, deli, plants and bikes.
It’s an export engine all its own. The store sits a half-mile from Miami International Airport, and it does a booming business with international travelers looking to score cheap merchandise, a hefty share of whom plan to resell their goods in their home countries. “They have little stores back in their countries, and they decide, ‘I want all that,’ ” Marciniak says. “You can walk by a section in the middle of the day and say, ‘OK, this looks nice,’ and you come by five minutes later and they’ve just raked off a whole portion of the section and then they buy it all.” And they buy luggage to tote it home in. Typical Walmarts devote an aisle to luggage. This Walmart has an entire department stocking all manner of luggage, including very, very large bags, to accommodate the buyers.
A typical day sees 13,000 to 14,000 customers, served by 800 full- and part-time employees representing 73 nationalities. It’s a good fit for the airport-bound customers and Doral itself, a city that’s faster-growing, better educated, younger and far more affluent than Florida averages and far more Hispanic — 80% Hispanic, 60% foreign born. Doral is even called Doral-zuela sometimes for its large Venezuelan population.
Marciniak, a 20-year Walmart employee who got his start out of college as an assistant manager at a Merritt Island supercenter, came to the Doral store 11 years ago and saw it through its expansion two years ago from a small “division one” store into the supercenter of supercenters. Walmart has nearly 11,000 stores around the world, but Marciniak is a manager known at the very top of company. “He’s Eddie,” says Martin Mundo, head of Walmart for Florida, “For (Walmart U.S. CEO) Bill Simon and everyone, he’s Eddie. Everybody knows Eddie.”
The expansion let Walmart and Marciniak do things rare for a Walmart — things that run counter to the image of a Bentonvilledirected uniformity. Rather than stocking only precut meats, the Doral store has a full butcher shop to cater to individual Hispanic preferences in meat cuts. Being in south Florida, the store, of course, takes orders for whole pigs for roasting at the holiday. Again, being in south Florida, it stocks the panoply of crackers popular among Latin na-tionalities. It has a fresh fish counter. A cafeteria — another Walmart rarity nowadays — sits under a mural by Venezuelan artist Carlos Augusto Pereira of the Miami skyline, nature scenes and the Walmart slogan, “Save Money. Live Better.”
The cafeteria sits opposite a hot deli counter that serves meals from breakfast through dinner. Close at hand is Marciniak’s pride, his “Latin version of Starbucks.” “No other store in the company has it,” he says. Along with Cuban sandwiches, made fresh in the Cuban sandwich press, it sells pastries, health drinks and, of course, coffee — 1,000 servings a week of each type. An ice cream bar nearby sells up to a couple thousand scoops a week at $1 a scoop.
To cater to the area’s affluent population, breads are baked fresh in the store. The bakery company, Pagnifique, started in Uruguay 18 years ago but moved to Miami, supplied the Doral store and now sells in 185 supercenters across the state. “You talk about fresh,”
Marciniak says. “We continue to keep on raising the bar.” Marciniak worked with buyers in the headquarters in Bentonville to bring in such secondary suppliers, not the ones typically supplying Walmart warehouses, to obtain the goods customers prefer, whether fresh bread, local ice cream or a multiplicity of malangas. As with Pagnifique, sales success in Doral can lead the vendors into other Walmarts.
As Marciniak walks his store, he points out the wheels on produce bins. To save time, the empty produce racks are wheeled out and ones fully stocked in back are wheeled in as replacements.
“We want to make sure we have the same selection at 10 o’clock at night as we do in the morning,” Marciniak says. “We always say, ‘Miami never sleeps.’ ”
A typical day sees 13,000 to 14,000 customers, served by 800 full- and part-time employees representing 73 nationalities.