retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart "is spending heavily to get customers back into its stores," going beyond previously announced decisions to increase employee salaries, lower prices, decrease out-of-stocks and build its online presence.

For example, the company "plans to expand a service that allows shoppers to buy groceries online and have the order brought to their car in a store parking lot, and offer more exclusive products like a recent best seller, a line of Pioneer Woman brand cookware exclusive to Wal-Mart."

And, Walmart is in the process of hiring "hundreds of fresh operations managers" who will be assigned to approximately 10 stores apiece, "training store workers how to best present and take care of fresh produce." And, Walmart is opening a "food sensory lab" later this year as away of creating and supporting a food culture within the company.

Reuters reports that "the move to install a new layer of managers comes as Wal-Mart faces growing competition for grocery shoppers from national and regional supermarket chains like Florida-based Publix Super Markets Inc. and Texas-based H-E-B."

Reuters also reports that Walmart plans to start offering offering fixed shifts and other planned scheduling changes "aimed at retaining and motivating its rank-and-file workers ... The changes are designed to offer employees greater control over their schedules, addressing an issue that has been a focus of labor activists who say retailers give little notice on shifts and generally exert too much control over worker hours."

The degree to which Walmart's efforts have been successful to this point will become evident later today when the retailer announces its most recent earnings figures.
KC's View:
We're all going to have a better sense of this later today when Walmart releases its recent sales and profit numbers.

In terms of the future initiatives, I'm not surprised by expanding its click-and-collect service ... in fact, I've been predicting it for a long time. (I'd probably be even more aggressive about the expansion than Walmart plans to be.) I do think that while adding layers of management isn't usually a great idea, the notion of fresh operations managers probably is a good one ... there's no question that Walmart has to get stronger in this segment.

I also think that creating more fixed schedules makes sense ... Walmart depends on the engagement of its employees, and allowing people to plan their schedules to the degree that most people do - and expect - is quite simply the right thing to do.