Walmart (NYSE:WMT) will promote 35,000 part-time associates to full-time status and turn another 35,000 temporary employees into regular part-timers to fight the chain's ongoing problems with keeping store shelves stocked, Bloomberg reported on Monday (Sept. 23).
The move comes as the world's largest retailer gears up for the holiday season. Walmart also said Monday that in addition to those 70,000 promotions, it will hire 55,000 temp employees for the holidays, up 10 percent from last year. The holiday temps are expected to lose their jobs once the season ends, but the 70,000 promoted employees will keep their new status. The new full-timers will also be eligible for company-funded health benefits.
Walmart's workforce has fallen by almost 10 percent over the past five years, while its store count has risen by more than 10 percent. Those shifts have coincided with complaints that stores don't have enough on-the-floor associates to keep shelves stocked and checkout aisles staffed.
The promoted employees will partially fill that gap—effectively adding 35,000 full-time associates—but Walmart and Sam's Club stores will still have lean staffing compared with five years ago. However, Walmart has also begun to move into denser city areas and to experiment with smaller-footprint stores, so then-and-now comparisons are trickier than looking at simple percentages.
The key question will be whether Walmart can use the promoted associates effectively to keep merchandise moving from stockrooms to shelves. Especially during the holiday season, customers assume an empty shelf means the store is sold out of an item and will head for a different store. That could be catastrophic for Walmart in what is already expected to be a tighter holiday selling season.
- See this Bloomberg story
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