An article written in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, October 2nd, outlined recent struggles for large commercial retailers, but specifically Wal-Mart. Around 450 employees will be laid off from the company’s headquarters in Arkansas within the next few weeks, and the article indicates that this action is due to “slow sales and shifts in retail business.” The people being laid off are not just low level workers, managers and Vice Presidents will also receive pink slips. The super store states that this move is due, in part, to potentially growing e-commerce sales and they hope this will improve the overall experience of shopping. In August, Wal-Mart reported a 15 percent drop in quarterly net profit since this time last year and the company has cut its earnings outlook for the full year. The article also states that Wal-Mart is facing strong competition from other retailers, online and offline. The company’s store sales have suffered in recent years because shoppers too often found items out of stock and were displeased by the general disfunction inside of stores. A reputation of unfriendly service has also plagued the store for years. Wal-Mart is trying to invest heavily in making stores cleaner, faster, friendlier and more well-stocked. The retailer is also investing in it e-commerce infrastructure.
I believe it is Wal-Marts own fault for their recent troubles. Historically, they have been a company that tries to provide goods to customers cheaply and efficiently. With employees that are not knowledgeable and not hospitable to shoppers, how can Wal-Mart expect to impress consumers enough to return to their stores? Also, they have not adapted to changes in the market. People today are buying more products on the internet than ever before, and Wal-Mart has been slow to adapt to this alternative method of shopping. If the store is not clean, well stocked, or friendly, then people would rather purchase goods online. If their online services are poor, then Wal-Mart will lose customers. Clearly they are trying to improve their issues, but it is too little too late for many of their employees.
This article connects to recent conversations in class. On Thursday, October 1, we were discussing the effects on online shopping in the market place. We pondered whether or not regular salesmen would one day be replaced by robots. Though this is just a futuristic fantasy at the moment, the changes in online shopping are beginning to change the way people view retail stores. Is buying online the death nail for American salesmen and employees of Wal-Mart? Probably not, but if the super-store, as well as other retailers like it, don’t adapt to improve their internet purchasing platforms, then the company and it’s workers will suffer. A failure to change with the times will lead to more and more pink slips being mailed.