Walmart has filed a WARN letter with federal authorities regarding the pending closure of a large return center in Bentonville. The retailer told Talk Business & Politics in January it would be relocating its fashion distribution to a new facility across town, and ultimately closing the return center to make room for its new corporate headquarters.
There were roughly 500 people working at the return center and all but 135 of them have already transferred to other facilities, according to Anne Hatfield, corporate spokeswoman for Walmart. She said employees were told about the closure in January and most of them have already secured other jobs within the company.
“There is still time for the remaining associates to transfer as well as the return center will be open for a couple more months,” she added.
Federal law requires employers to file a WARN notice (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act 1988) when a facility employing 100 or more is going to be shuttered in the next 60-day period.
Walmart said last year there were an estimated 5,000 workers in offices located in the proposed building site for the new corporate headquarters. The moves include several hundred employees who have relocated to the new fashion distribution center located at 5800 S.W. Regional Airport Road in Bentonville, across the highway from the large general merchandise distribution center.
Hatfield said the new $1.03 million fashion distribution center is a high-tech facility that has been up and running for the past few months. Earlier this year, Walmart closed its small footwear distribution center in Fort Smith and moved those 100 jobs to Bentonville.
Walmart said when the return center in Bentonville winds down its operations this year, five other return centers spread across the U.S. will pick up that workload. The retailer’s print shop, employee store, fitness center and layout center are all located on the large tract of land earmarked for the new corporate offices.
The retailer has said there is not a definite timeline for the relocation of those areas, but the process is expected to take up to three years.
As Walmart continues to shrink its corporate headcount a bit in recent years, the retailer still employs roughly 15,000 in its back office and corporate operations across Northwest Arkansas. Additionally, there are about 10,000 jobs in the region’s supplier community directly linked to Walmart’s retail business.
As Walmart also continues to grow its footprint across the nation and world with more acquisitions and additional corporate offices like in Hoboken, N.J., San Bruno, Calif., Madison Heights, Mich., or New Delhi, India, local leaders were pleased to see the retail giant commit to a new home office in Bentonville.
Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon told employees a year ago the new home office is a “stake in the ground to say this is a company that’s going to be here in 50 years’ time or more.”