For the past few years, a growing number of Walmart customers have complained about threadbare shelves, while Walmart workers say it’s a result of being understaffed and mismanaged. Now the nation’s largest retailer is admitting that it’s losing billions of dollars by trying to be cheap.
According to a recent BusinessWeek story, Walmart execs announced at a company meeting earlier this month that improving the level of merchandise that is in-stock and available for customers to buy is a top priority.
As Walmart workers told us last year, a number of Walmart stores have plenty of inventory in the back of the building, but some of it never reaches the floor because there are too few employees — or too many employees being directed to do non-shelving work — to keep shelves stocked.
Last fall, Walmart finally began to add some hours for employees to do more stocking work, but complaints from customers have not stopped.
At the company meeting, executives said they will add more hours in an effort to improve “in-store execution.” If it fails to make a change for the positive, the company figures to lose $3 billion a year.
Whether or not that works will likely depend on who they hire and how they treat the new hires. One Walmart worker told Consumerist that her store has a way of overwhelming new part-time hires with too much work, leading to a high level of turnover, meaning time is wasted training people over and over again.
Over the last five years, Walmart’s workforce has decreased in size, while the company has continued to open up stores in new locations around the country. We’ve been told that workers get a higher hourly wage to stock, but that many cashiers and other employees have been drafted into shelving duty during their regularly scheduled hours and without any bump in pay for that time.
Right now it’s a wait and see if Walmart’s latest plan will work. The condition of its shelves is one of those few things that a retailer can’t hide from consumers’ eyes.