Not long after falling beneath Amazon as the top retailer in the country, Walmart faces more negative PR news. According to multiple media reports, Walmart will shutter 269 stores this year, a cost-saving move that will impact more than 16,000 workers and create a cascade of public relations consequences the brand will find difficult to overcome.
Sure, everyone “loves” Walmart, but when the company known for making massive profits on the backs of low-wage workers is now releasing thousands of those workers in order to right its financial ship, you can expect the consumer public to ignore the reasons and react to the decision. At least 12 supercenters will close, along with 4 Sam’s Club locations, and many small-scale “Walmart Express” locations. The silver lining in all this is most stores being closed are within ten miles of another Walmart location. The company said it plans to try to place the 10,000 American workers affected in those stores.
But, as Yoda is so fond of saying, “trying” is not the same as “doing”, and many who have heard this news are skeptical that Walmart can find similar work for all those folks at other locations. Are all those nearby Walmarts really that sparsely staffed? Not likely, which Walmart tacitly admits in its Plan B. Any workers laid-off are expected to receive up to 60 days of pay as well as resume and interview skills training.
“Closing stores is never an easy decision, but it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO.
But the decision may have been inevitable. Walmart shares plummeted 30 percent last year alone. The store closings and layoffs are happening even as Walmart hopes to regain lost ground by opening 60 new U.S. stores and a total of 300 worldwide. How will the American consumer public, already not on Walmart’s side, react when they learn thousands are being laid off even as hundreds more will need to be hired?
“We are committed to growing, but we are being disciplined about it,” McMillon said.
But will consumers buy that line? What do you think?