Wal-Mart’s 2014 Strategy: Keep Shelves Stocked, Workers Employed

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Last month, Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) forecast annual profit that fell short of analyst estimates, evidencing the hit the company has taken from the struggling U.S. economy and government benefit cuts. Now, new CEO Doug McMillon is taking the company’s future into his own hands; he and 7,000 other associates met at Wal-Mart’s Year Beginning Meeting in March to discuss the retailer’s new plans. Bloomberg reported on the meeting last weekend and illuminated Wal-Mart’s new game plan to ensure that all stores are better stocked and employ a number of staff members who can sufficiently support in-store operations.

According to Bloomberg, “in-stocks,” or the measure of how much merchandise is available for shoppers to buy, is one area that Wal-Mart needs to focus on in 2014. Over the past year, its attention to keeping store shelves full has declined, and not only have executives noticed, shoppers have, too. The lack of merchandise has caused some loyal Wal-Mart customers to turn to the chain’s competitors, like Target (NYSE:TGT) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), at a time when Wal-Mart’s earnings are lower than they have been in many quarters.

The problem, at least according to many associates, is that Wal-Mart does not employ enough workers, and therefore those who do work at the chain are overworked and stretched too thin. Bloomberg reported last weekend that U.S. staff at the main Wal-Mart chain and Sam’s Club warehouse chains fell by about 20,000 between 2008 and January of this year, and that over that same period, the company added more than 650 U.S. Wal-Mart stores, bringing the total to more than 4,200.

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