Walmart debuts virtual summer camp and drive-in movie programs

Photo: Walmart/Business Wire
Jul 06, 2020
Tom Ryan

Walmart announced plans to turn some of its parking lots into drive-in movie theaters and host its first Camp by Walmart, featuring celebrities who would take kids through a virtual camp experience.

“Summer hasn’t really felt like summer yet and I know I hear every day, ‘Mom, I’m bored!’,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer, Walmart, in a statement. “Through our digital means and vast footprint of stores, we’re hoping to bring some summer fun to families across the country. We know Walmart plays a role in our communities that extends far beyond getting them necessary supplies, and we see that now more than ever.”

Beginning in August, Walmart will transform 160 of its parking lots into drive-in theaters in a partnership with Tribeca Enterprises. A combined 320 showings will be presented through October, including hit movies and special appearances from filmmakers and celebrities. Ahead of each screening, families will be able to order online and have concessions delivered to vehicles.

Walmart also signed on as presenting partner of the Tribeca Drive-In movie series, which began July 2. Tribeca Drive-In movie series costs $26 per vehicle or $35 for a double feature.

Drive-in movie showings have been popping up across the country as the opening of theaters have faced major social distancing and cleansing challenges.

Camp by Walmart is being produced and developed in partnership with CAMP, the Buzzfeed-funded, summer-camp-themed retailer with one store in the Flatiron district.

Starting July 8, families can access 50 activities from arts and crafts to fitness and other activities for free through the Walmart app. The sessions are being led by camp experts and celebrities, including a make-up tutorial led by actress Drew Barrymore, camp challenges led by actor Neil Patrick Harris and mental and physical activities led by basketball star LeBron James with help from his PROMISE School educators.

Restrictions and closures of beaches, amusement parks, summer camps, movie theaters and other leisure adventures have led many families to pursue entertainment options inside homes and to opt for staycations or nearby vacations. The shift has led to a spike in sales of swimming pools, grills, basketball hoops and bikes.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What marketing and merchandising opportunities do the entertaining-at-home and staycation trends offer retailers? What do you think of Walmart’s response with its virtual summer camp and drive-in movies?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Leave it to Walmart to find yet another way to turn its brick-and-mortar locations into customer-friendly convenience hubs (this time, for entertainment)."
"Love it! Great idea to generate good will plus boost sales – plus it’s something that Amazon can’t do very easily!"
"The drive-in movies will boost Walmart’s branding among groups that otherwise wouldn’t visit Walmart. It’s a low-cost, high-reward opportunity."

Join the Discussion!

23 Comments on "Walmart debuts virtual summer camp and drive-in movie programs"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
David Leibowitz

This is pretty clever and a smart move for Walmart. Drive-in movies solves for pent up demand by families to get out of the house, eases concerns about watching movies in enclosed theaters, and helps the motion picture industry if they screen new releases.

And … They just broke the fourth wall and solved for earning revenue from the parking lot.

Paula Rosenblum

Brilliant. This is all about good will and becoming a more integral part of the community,

I suppose the company could offer merchandise drop off right into the trunk of your car as a convenience, or a grocery pickup point on the way out, but it’s a pretty wholesome way to get out of the house without additional pandemic exposure.

Really clever.

Richard Hernandez

This is actually a great idea. Families are looking for things to do and this is a great option for the family. Additionally, Walmart will get the affinity sales from the concession sales. What’s not to like?

Bob Phibbs

While everyone continues to scream digital is the only way going forward, this move again solidifies Walmart as one of the few retailers which understands that the store is the hub that makes everything else possible, not the other way around. The partnership with Camp is inspired and clearly a winner for a single-store operator whose very experiential existence is in question in the time of COVID-19. The fact that they used celebrities is a bonus for all.

Bob Amster

My philosopher friend and former pizza baker says in a nasal tone and Italian accent: “You gotta do, what you gotta do.” In this case Walmart is cleverly doing whatever can make up for other lost revenue while keeping its customer base engaged with the brand.

Carol Spieckerman

Leave it to Walmart to find yet another way to turn its brick-and-mortar locations into customer-friendly convenience hubs (this time, for entertainment). That’s quite a feat in the midst of COVID-19.

Lee Peterson

I like it. At first, I thought, what a terrific test. Then seeing the 160 store count, I realized they must know something — or they just have a lot of guts. I love ideas like this though, why not? Where are consumers going to get the snacks while they sit out there in a parking lot? And who knows what else. Hats off to the Walmart Store No. 8 group, great job.

Evan Snively

I thought the same thing Lee — pushing all-in allows them to really commit and take advantage of the summer season. A test/review/rollout might miss the window of opportunity for this specific initiative — and maybe they have something new up their sleeve for fall/holiday/winter…

Jeff Weidauer

Walmart is showing that despite its size it can pivot and respond as customer demand morphs. The company is earning a reputation for innovative thinking that serves changing customer desires, providing something beyond just another digital experience that keeps their stores front and center.

Ron Margulis

Not to pat myself on the back, but I suggested drive-in movies and corralled outdoor seating for local restaurants to a friend who owns several malls experiencing less-than-stellar traffic back in April. He started a movie program at two locations and has outdoor restaurants operating at five of them, and they’re putting up good numbers. Walmart will experience the same with their programs.

Jeff Sward

Wow — just wow. The parking lot as a center for customer experience AND a revenue generator. Somebody gets a pat on the back for that idea.

Gregory Osborne

I love this idea. The drive-in movies will boost Walmart’s branding among groups that otherwise wouldn’t visit Walmart. It’s a low-cost, high-reward opportunity.

Mel Kleiman

I will be astonished if everyone who posts in this discussion does not either say it is an excellent or brilliant idea. What makes it so appealing is Walmart is positioning itself not as a company trying to sell something but as a company that is trying to serve the customers and communities where it does business. In their case, everywhere.

Gene Detroyer

What is not to love about this?

Dave Bruno

Wow, do I love these ideas! Once again Walmart finds new ways to make their brand – and their stores – relevant. And oh, by the way, think of all the good will they are building as well. I have to say it again — I absolutely love these ideas. Well done, Walmart!

Rachelle King

This is quintessential Walmart; holding true to core values around families and making their lives easier. Excellent alignment with core values. Walmart has taken a leadership position on thinking outside the box, literally, to leverage their reach and scale to help families during this pandemic. You have to applaud this effort and hope to see more retailers follow suit within their own footprint and ecosystems.

As stay-cations and social distancing have slowly become more of a reality than buzz words, both retailers and brands have opportunities to meet consumers in this new space. Food/grocery and home activities have become staples but pushing into at-home experience like Walmart’s virtual summer camp is an abundant space that is rich with opportunity for homebound consumers.

Steve Montgomery

Very smart move. Has many benefits for Walmart that go far beyond any revenue they may generate. Up until this move I’m not sure that people thought that going to a Walmart could be fun.

Michael La Kier

You had us at Neil Patrick Harris and camp. Walmart is taking the idea of retailtainment to a new high. They are showing huge empathy to shoppers at a time that matters. Bravo!

Lisa Goller

Walmart’s creative solutions replace the boredom of cocooning in isolation with connecting at fun community events.

The drive-in experience combines safety and socializing. It’s probably the only time people will brag on Instagram about being at Walmart.

The summer camp shows empathy for families, as parents work from a home filled with children starved for stimulation.

By necessity, the pandemic has made our lives far more digital. Even these positive retailtainment initiatives are conditioning kids to spend time in front of screens all year round.

Other ways retailers can entertain consumers and engage communities:

  • Grocers could create online cooking shows or culinary workshops;
  • Wellness companies like Lululemon and Adidas could use online challenges or physically-distant yoga classes in parking lots to encourage physical activity for the whole family to counter passive screen time;
  • Retailers like REI could invest in virtual reality to help homebound consumers savor exciting travel experiences like mountain climbing in Nepal or the Alps to appeal to their wanderlust.
Kathleen Fischer

Love it! Great idea to generate good will plus boost sales – plus it’s something that Amazon can’t do very easily!

Georganne Bender

So smart! We look to craft retailers like Michaels to offer summer camps (it always has via its daily Kids Club Camp Creativity) but that’s expected, isn’t it? Walmart has really stepped up throughout the pandemic to offer its customers and communities the things we need and the things we miss. Walmart has always been a punching bag, the easiest store to condemn because of its size, but that size has come in handy. Hats off to the team at Walmart for trying to make our lives a little easier. And certainly more fun!

Evan Snively

Specifically with regard to the marketing/merchandising opportunity – I would say that there should be new opportunity for the Netflix/Amazon/Disneys of the world to capitalize on TV shows. I know that this was already going on before, but it was more limited to the top echelon of shows and more specifically, movies. With more screen time (guilty parent here), the bench of TVs that kids are cycling through presents opportunities for some of the lesser-known or just brand new shows to get their merchandise out there.

It could be a huge success (though parents might hate it) if there was some way to allow purchases in-app after a show – maybe when you got to the end of the season it could recommend the merchandise or books associated with it. Thinking specifically about Amazon, they could track time spent watching a specific show and then email “Top Fans” a limited-release offer of related merchandise to convert viewers into customers.

Sterling Hawkins

Very smart move and a perfect example of how a company can take existing assets (and constraints) and create something new from them.

"Leave it to Walmart to find yet another way to turn its brick-and-mortar locations into customer-friendly convenience hubs (this time, for entertainment)."
"Love it! Great idea to generate good will plus boost sales – plus it’s something that Amazon can’t do very easily!"
"The drive-in movies will boost Walmart’s branding among groups that otherwise wouldn’t visit Walmart. It’s a low-cost, high-reward opportunity."

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you give a thumbs up or down from a branding perspective for Walmart’s drive-in movie and summer camp initiatives this summer?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...