retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Bill Simon, the president/CEO of Walmart US, said yesterday that the company has committed to "buying an additional $50 billion in U.S. products during the next decade," according to a story from Bloomberg Business Week. "He said the company will increase what it already buys, including sporting goods, apparel basics, storage products, games, and paper products.  And it will help manufacturers in such 'higher potential' areas as textiles, furniture, pet supplies, some outdoor categories, and higher-end appliances."

The New York Times put the commitment into context: "The company did not disclose the value of the American-made products it already sourced. In its most recent fiscal year, Walmart spent $335 billion buying and transporting merchandise globally. (It does not break out figures for the United States and Sam’s Club, which represent about 70 percent of over all sales.) The $50 billion commitment - $5 billion a year - represents about 1.5 percent of that annual total."

And, the Times writes, "Walmart has been under pressure concerning its overseas sourcing because of a deadly fire in November in Bangladesh that killed more than 100 people at a factory used by Walmart suppliers."

In addition, the Bloomberg Business Week story says, Simon said that the company's "part-time employees would receive more information about full-time job openings and have the first shot at those jobs," a move designed to address concerns that part-time employees are treated as second-class citizens, with schedules that "change too frequently, making it difficult to hold a second job or go to school or care for families." "We’re all tired of retail jobs being put down, as if retail workers can’t judge for themselves what a good job is," Simon said, adding, "We will also bring more transparency to our scheduling system so part-time workers can choose more hours for themselves."

The comments came at the annual meeting of the National Retail Federation (NRF), in New York City, and were included in remarks where the company formally announced that it will hire every US military veteran that wants a job, provided that the veterans have left the military in the previous year and did not receive a dishonorable discharge.

Simon suggested that the moves are not a series of public relations ploys: "Everything could have just remained the same. Instead, we decided we could move the rock. … We can just decide to do this."
KC's View:
It is hard for me to accept the idea that there are no public relations motivations behind these moves. Walmart may have wanted to move the rock, but in part, that may be because when it comes to certain issues (global bribery charges?) it finds itself between a rock and a hard place.