Walmart Announces 700-800 Job Cuts

Emphasis will shift from new-store openings to existing-store renovations
Posted February 11, 2009

Walmart Stores Inc. (Bentonville, Ark.), one of retailing’s brighter lights in a dark period of store closings, job cuts and bankruptcy filings, announced it plans to cut 700 to 800 jobs at its headquarters as it makes broad changes to its operations.

“The changes are designed to align our staffing and organizational structure, to increase operational efficiencies, support our strategic growth plans and help reduce our overall costs,” said a company spokesman.

About 14,000 people work at the company’s Arkansas headquarters. The cuts will affect merchandising, real estate, marketing and support staff positions for Walmart’s U.S. operations as well as merchandising and corporate functions at its Sam’s Club division. But while fewer new store openings will lead to the need for fewer employees in the retailer’s real estate group, more remodeling and relocation of existing stores will create jobs in its store planning group. The job cuts do not affect store employees.

“If there is one constant in our organization, it is change,” said president and ceo Michael Duke in a letter to employees. He added that the retailer must “challenge costs in every corner of the company in order to keep our business strong today and well into the future. . . . We find ourselves living in unprecedented times.”

Employees will be given more specific information about the cuts in the next couple of weeks and there is no immediate plan to make other positions within Walmart available to them. But the company also plans to add jobs at its New York apparel office and expects “to add thousands of jobs” at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores.

Last year, Walmart opened 166 new stores. This year, that number will be between 125 and 140. “Obviously, we don’t need as many people to do the work to site a new store, to build a new store,” the spokesman said. But since Walmart is expanding its program to renovate and expand stores, it will hire more workers in that area.

The company is also moving positions in its apparel buying and planning group from Bentonville to New York.