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The Associated Press reports on the messages being sent by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon at the company's annual shareholder meeting last Friday in Bentonville, Arkansas.


• "McMillon highlighted ideas Walmart has introduced or tested in the past year, like grocery pickup and technology that tracks food through the global supply chain. The company has also put money into its online operations, buying up several smaller retail sites as it seeks to compete better with Amazon."

• "McMillon and other executives also noted the company's investments in higher wages and training for its employees. 'We will compete with technology, but win with people,' McMillon told a cheering audience."

• However, while saying that "workers shouldn't fear increasing automation in the industry," McMillon also said that "the company may have reached an employment peak, with 1.6 million workers. 'We may end up over time with fewer people, paying them more and have them use more technology,' he said. But when or if that would happen is 'to be determined'."

• "McMillon cited the company's efforts to offer more shopping options, including automated pickup stations in some store parking lots, in-store pickup for online orders, and 'Jet Fresh' delivery, which provides grocery delivery in 1-2 days and is available to about half of U.S. households. That service is a result of the company's acquisition last year of online retailer 'The historic trade-off between price and service doesn't really exist anymore,' McMillon said."
KC's View:
I think McMillon has to be given credit for being a CEO willing to say out loud what analysts and statisticians have been telling us - that millions of retail jobs are going to be lost to automation.

"The good news is that a bunch of Walmart employees are going to made more money. The bad news is that the rest of you are going to lose your jobs...
In a recent story in The Atlantic, they put it this way: "Department stores, including Macy’s and JC Penney, have shed nearly 100,000 jobs since October—more than the total number of coal miners or steel workers currently employed in the U.S."

As enthusiastic as I am about e-commerce and the digital revolution, I am not ignoring the potential major problems it creates in terms of the American labor force. I just think that we can't ban e-commerce (at least, I don't think we can). I just firmly believe that government and industry have to come together to develop a nuanced, progressive, forward-thinking public policy approach to these issues.