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Cart escalators could take retail construction to next level

(Photo courtesy of www.cartveyor.com)

By Ann Knoedler

Have you ever been in a store that provides shopping cart escalators?

Shoppers who witness this conveyance system for the first time are enthralled at the novelty.

I know I was.

Whole Foods Market built its one and only store in Milwaukee on the east side. It was built on a tight site with no surface parking options and in an area of Milwaukee that is notorious for being a very difficult place to park. The problem was solved with underground parking and shopping cart escalators.

However, these cart escalators are not the new-fangled contraptions that Whole Foods introduced for the first time in my little corner of the world. In Europe, where construction real estate is at a premium and they must build up rather than spread out, cart escalators are old hat. For instance, the Vermaport Cart Conveying System manufactured by Darrott in Germany has been around for more than 30 years.

In 2000, Milwaukee-based Pflow Industries introduced a cart conveyor system.

By all accounts, it was Target that introduced the cart conveyor to the U.S. in 1995 when it built a two-level store on a tight spot in La Mesa, Calif., near San Diego. It was so successful they were able to move forward with more multi-level stores. One of them is under construction now in Madison at the Hilldale Mall. Walmart and other large retailers have followed suit.

In these multi-level stores, shoppers can move back and forth between levels of the store and to their cars in the underground parking with great ease (shoppers accompany their moving shopping cart on an escalator that runs parallel to and at the same speed as the cart escalator).

Of course, this opens new opportunities for construction when a large retailer isn’t “boxed” in by lack of available space traditionally required for the one-story building/surface parking combination. Developers can now look at smaller sites in urban areas allowing access to denser populations. But they don’t need me to tell them that – it’s happening already.

• Did you know that the trademark name “Escalator” lost its proprietary status and the capital “e” in 1950 when the U.S. patent office ruled the word had become just a common descriptive term for moving stairways?

Here’s hoping you have more ups than downs in 2011.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She’s excited about the latest in escalator design: the levytator.

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  1. The cart “walkway” that gets you from the first to second floor at the Menards in Waukesha is awesome.

  2. Thanks for the update – I’ll have to check it out – is it different than a cart escalator?

  3. Ann
    You can youtube Menards escalator, they have a video. It appears you ride with the cart behind it at Menards unlike your video which you stand beside it.
    They even have a grand piano playing at the base and video screens to keep you entertained on the slow climb up.

  4. I checked out the YouTube video – what a hoot! I’m definitely going to have to check it out now.

  5. Ann,

    It is a flat belt like an airport walkway, just on an angle. They have special carts with a brake that automatically engages.

  6. How many people are actually going to use this? It’s not even that fast! It’s this kind of wasteful spending that will end us all. I bet Menard’s used some sort of tax dollars when they built their building. Scott Walker should look into this.

  7. Funny Abe. I bet:

    1.) Menards generates a positive net revenue for the State.
    2.) A higher % of people that want to go from the 1st to 2nd floor of Menards will use the conveyor than the % of people that want to go from Milwaukee to Madison would use the choo choo. The fact that the tax payers do not have to foot a $65+ bill for every person that uses the conveyor is just a plus.

    Back to the topic please.

  8. Thank you gentlemen for all the back and forth – I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe we’ll cross paths at the Waukesha Menards someday.

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