On-the-ground Walmart store associates have said for years now that systematic understaffing is at the root of the company’s operational problems. After several quarters of weak earnings, bad press, and reputational problems stemming from understaffing, are Walmart execs finally—finally!—acknowledging the severity of the understaffing problem and taking steps to solve it?
Bloomberg reported last Friday:
Improving “in-stocks” — a measure of how much merchandise is available for shoppers to buy — is a top focus for Wal-Mart, executives said at its Year Beginning Meeting, according to notes taken by an attendee that were reviewed by Bloomberg. The company also plans to add labor hours as part of an effort to bolster “in-store execution,” executives said at the summit in Orlando, Florida…
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has struggled to keep shelves stocked over the past year at U.S. stores, Bloomberg News has reported, citing workers and customers. The lack of merchandise has frustrated some shoppers, prompting them to decamp to the chain’s competitors. Increasing labor hours could make it easier for staff to get inventory from the stockroom and replenish the products on the store floor.
Notably, executives added that addressing the in-stock issues that are associated with understaffing is a “$3 billion opportunity”—the first time that Walmart has alluded to the financial impact understaffing has had on the company. We hope that quantifying the impact is a sign that company leaders have committed to taking understaffing and in-stocks seriously, but we’ll hold off on optimism until we start to hear actual reports of associates getting more hours and stores having cleaner, well-stocked shelves. We don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, but nothing has changed months after Walmart first said it was fixing these problems. Does Walmart really mean it this time?