Walmart saw impressive growth and expansion through the 1990s and 2000s thanks to Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Academy sporting goods stores. However, in 2014, the national retailer saw its American-based revenue slip. Several improvements must occur for the world's largest retail chain to regain its luster, especially with Walmart employees.
During its February 2015 earnings call, CEO Doug McMillan touted a raise for many employees to improve employee morale. Protests over long hours, little pay and Black Friday hours may have made an impact thanks to negative press and pressures from politicians. Employees start at $9 per hour beginning in April 2015, and that figure rises to $10 per hour a year later. The move affects 500,000 Walmart employees at a cost of $1 billion.
Walmart finally gets it. To be a retail industry leader, the company must lead by example. Walmart employees staged sit-ins, picket lines and online petitions to get noticed. Even more drastic actions such as lawsuits and attempts to unionize made Walmart executives take notice. McMillan heard the pleas of its poorest workers, and he helped. Now, the onus is on improving the workers' hours. Walmart, like many retailers, cannot afford full-time employees due to costly health insurance premiums.
The next step for Walmart employees includes refreshing big-box stores. Adding fresher foods, guaranteed produce and organic choices helped. However, customer service among associates must improve. A new attitude can bring about new displays, better store organization and brighter merchandise. Stores must get rid of "hanger fatigue" on its clothing racks in order to look better to everyday buyers.
The move to increase pay for Walmart employees comes more than a year after the national retailer promised to invest $50 billion over 10 years for products that are made in America. The initiative means well. Initially, Walmart ran into sourcing problems because many manufacturers outsource parts to Asian companies who ship materials to America. The company hosted a Manufacturing Summit in August 2014 to address issues such as infrastructure, new factories and raw materials needed to reshore manufacturing to the United States from Asia. The aim is to create more efficient manufacturing processes that make less expensive goods due to new technology.
Other retailers are on notice. In order to compete, companies such as Target and Home Depot may need to invest money or risk losing market share. Associates may become more loyal and spend more of their hard-earned money on their own employer. This raises Walmart's profits in the long term by increasing revenue from within its own system.
Walmart's two main assets are its massive workforce and less expensive products. Investing more money in Walmart employees and American manufacturers show that the company is willing to take big risks for future rewards. The retailer is trying to lead the way with regards to showing it is good for American commerce rather than an inhumane juggernaut only concerned with profits.
Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart at Flickr.com