Walmart Inc. confirmed a sizable layoff of corporate employees the last week of July, despite posting record sales during the pandemic.
The scale of the layoffs is unknown, but it’s thought to be in the high hundreds.
What impact will the restructuring have on the large community of retail suppliers in Northwest Arkansas? Scott Crossett, a senior partner with executive recruiting firm Cameron Smith & Associates in Rogers, says not much.
“This layoff and most recent layoffs from Walmart have been attributed to realigning their resources to compete with Amazon and to become more omnichannel. That’s not directly correlated to the success of the suppliers’ business strength at Walmart,” Crossett wrote in an email to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “These particular layoffs shouldn’t have a measurable impact on the operations of the local supplier teams or the headcounts for supplier teams.”
Crossett, who recruits nationally for consumer packaged goods (CPG) supplier teams, said if Walmart were reducing headcount because of poor sales in specific categories, there would likely be a correlation from suppliers and possible consolidation in those same product categories.
“We saw a little of this in apparel due to COVID-19 and general merchandise due to tariff concerns and COVID-19, because those products require store traffic to drive sales, but suppliers are pretty stable currently,” he wrote.
Crossett said some affected Walmart workers would ultimately relocate out of the region or work in a different industry to stay here. Some people will find jobs working for suppliers. Others will not.
“The Walmart roles that are most transferable to supplier teams are the roles that have direct exposure to suppliers regularly, such as replenishment personnel, buyers or insights analysts,” he wrote. “The positions that are operations-related or financial are not as common on the local supplier teams and therefore a tougher transition to make for someone looking to stay in Northwest Arkansas and join a supplier.”
Walmart said it would continue to pay anyone who was let go and allow them to keep their benefits for six months through Jan. 31, 2021. Crossett termed that severance “a very big deal.”
“It’s not an easy job market for unemployed people, but they have some time to prepare and do a thorough job search,” he wrote.