Walmart. Picture: SUPPLIED
Walmart. Picture: SUPPLIED

New York — Walmart has eliminated hundreds of corporate positions, according to people familiar with the matter, as retailers around the country slim down at the back-office level.

The world’s biggest retailer has laid off workers in departments including store planning, logistics and real estate, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorised to speak publicly.

Some of those affected were told in person, while others learnt their fate over a Zoom call, according to the people. Conversations with those affected will continue throughout the week. Those who lose their jobs will be paid until the end of January, when Walmart’s fiscal year ends and annual bonuses get doled out, according to one of the people.

The company declined to comment specifically on the plans, saying via e-mail that it would “share additional information after we’ve completed our communication with associates”. John Furner, head of Walmart’s US operations, is expected to address the restructuring in a statement to employees later on Thursday.

“We are continuing on our journey to create an omni-channel organisation within our Walmart US business and we’re making some additional changes this week,” a spokesperson said in the e-mail, without clarifying. The company said its goal is to increase “innovation, speed and productivity”.

The move is an acknowledgment that Walmart is simply not opening many new stores in the US anymore, so it doesn’t need as many people to find new locations and design them. It’s also part of a multi-year, streamlining effort that has sought to simplify its US operations and consolidate its bricks-and-mortar and online divisions. The initiative included reducing the number of regional operating units, and shuttering its e-commerce unit.

Walmart fell 1% to $129.38 a share at 9.35am in New York. The stock had climbed 10% this year up to Wednesday, beating the S&P 500 index, which was essentially unchanged.

Merchandising merge

The retailer’s merchandising division, whose buyers choose what products to carry and how to price them, could also get hit with job reductions as store and online positions get merged, two of the people said.

Some of those affected might find other jobs inside Walmart, according to one of the people.

Layoffs are also happening in departments such as transportation, HR and product design, one of the people said. Online message boards and private Facebook groups popular with Walmart associates lit up with the news.

“Twenty years, good performance... but given the big boot today,” said one anonymous poster. “Just laid off, 26 years with Walmart,” said another.

Retailers of all shapes and sizes have been trimming back-office workforces during the pandemic. L Brands, the owner of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, said this week that it will eliminate 850 office jobs, or about 15% of its corporate staff. Last month, Macy’s said it is eliminating 3,900 corporate and management jobs. Tailored Brands and Levi Strauss are cutting corporate positions, too.

But they’re all reeling during the pandemic, while Walmart — America’s go-to for groceries and other essentials — has seen sales surge. In May, Walmart reported coronavirus-related stockpiling led to a boost in quarterly sales, underscoring the company’s strong position amid widespread carnage in the US retail sector. It next reports earnings on August 18.


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