Wal-Mart Stores confirmed it will announce corporate layoffs later this month, but the retailer did not say how many jobs were to be eliminated. But it did confirm the jobs were largely in its Bentonville home office and support staff.
Insiders told Talk Business & Politics the first of the layoffs will likely begin Friday (Jan. 13). The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the situation, reported “hundreds of jobs” will be axed before the end of January, which is the retailer’s fiscal year-end. Wal-Mart did not confirm any such figure.
“As we’ve previously shared, we are always looking for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively. While we continually look at our corporate structure, we have not made any announcements. Like any organization, we make decisions based upon what’s best for our business and the customers we serve,” Wal-Mart corporate spokesman Greg Hitt noted in an e-mailed statement.
The retailer also is closing at least three Neighborhood Market stores. The stores to be closed are in East Charlotte, S.C. (closing on March 3), Marietta, Ga. (closing March 3) and the Chicago Presidential Towers stores (closing on Jan. 25).
Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug McMillon told analysts in October the retailer will pay attention to its real estate holdings and close some stores in order to remain focused on e-commerce and developing segments like pickup that drive people to the stores.
McMillon has said the company must invest more in e-commerce and in-store technology applications that make shopping more convenient. He said the hefty investments – $6 billion and counting – will come at the expense of less capital allocated for new stores. McMillon said existing stores and the corporate offices would be streamlined to run as efficiently as possible. He said positions that directly service stores would take priority over middle management positions that grow in an organization over time.
“There are no cash registers in the home office,” McMillon told analysts in June 2015.
In the summer of 2016 Wal-Mart said it was cutting about 7,000 back-office jobs and consolidating those operations in centralized locations. About one year ago Walmart U.S. announced plans to close 154 stores, impacting about 10,000 jobs. Sam’s Club also cut about 400 operational jobs and 150 corporate office personnel were given pink slips on Jan. 15, 2016, Talk Business & Politics reported.
Jobs placement veteran Cameron Smith said his firm, Cameron Smith & Associates, has been getting phone calls from within Wal-Mart for a few weeks regarding upcoming layoffs. He said the callers are professionals seeking information about other opportunities. He has not had an official call from Wal-Mart about this pending layoff.
Smith said the layoffs at Wal-Mart and retail are becoming an annual thing and each year his business acts like a triage unit trying to help the displaced execs find jobs with other local companies.
“Wal-Mart will bring in a placement service from out of state that can help the professionals brush up the resumes, but for the folks who want to remain in Northwest Arkansas they usually end up meeting with our firm. Another sign that a layoff is coming is when our Linkedin requests jump substantially from professionals inside Wal-Mart corporate ranks and that is also been happening again,” Smith told Talk Business & Politics.
Smith said it’s easier for some of the displaced professionals to remain local, but more than anything else the candidates with transferable skills in the vendor community have the best chance. He said specialty groups like real estate could have a tougher time finding jobs locally with pay equal to their Wal-Mart salaries.
The Wal-Mart layoffs come on the heels of several other retail announcements made in the past week. Macy’s will shutter store 63 stores this spring and eliminate about 3,900 jobs. Another 6,000 jobs at Macy’s will be cut over the coming months as it spends more on e-commerce capabilities. Sears is shuttering 150 flagship and Kmart stores in the coming weeks, and The Limited, a women’s apparel chain, is closing all of its 250 stores beginning this week and becoming an online retailer only.
Retail analyst Jan Kniffen said this is a new reality for brick and mortar retailers who now have to become omni-channel players. He said it’s an expensive transformation but retailers who want to survive five more years have to make it.