Human cashiers are returning to Wal-Mart
Long checkout lines are one of the retailer's biggest customer complaints. It's now dedicating more employees to the problem.
In an attempt to lure more customers this holiday season, Wal-Mart (WMT) is promising to staff each of its cash register from the day after Thanksgiving through the days just before Christmas during peak shopping times.
The move, called the "checkout promise," is aimed at addressing one of the retailer's biggest customer complaints: long waits in checkout lines, which can cause even more frustration when positions aren't fully staffed. The pledge will cover hours typically on weekend afternoons but which can vary by store.
"We feel good about price and having the top gifts of the season, so the next priority is about getting customers in and out of the stores quickly," Duncan Mac Naughton, Wal-Mart's chief merchandising officer, said in an interview. "Taking the possibility of waiting in long lines off the table will attract more people into stores."
The move comes as the world's largest retailer has struggled to win back shoppers after seven straight quarters of falling traffic in the U.S.
Many customers have ditched the chain's giant superstores in favor of quicker trips to smaller nearby rivals. Wal-Mart, in part due to that shift, hasn't posted an increase in sales at its U.S. stores open at least a year since 2012.
Wal-Mart has said that time and convenience continue to be important to its shoppers, and it is aggressively building smaller format stores.
While same-store sales were flat across Wal-Mart's U.S. stores in the quarter ended July 31, the figure increased by 5.6% at its smaller-format grocery stores, called Neighborhood Markets.
The company also has struggled this year with complaints about too many out of stock items and empty shelves. Executives have said that refilling shelves alone could bring back $3 billion in sales.
Now, as Wal-Mart attempts to attract customers in the months leading up to the important and highly promotional holiday season, it said it is drilling down to make sure its store operations run more smoothly.
Wal-Mart said its supercenters typically have about 30 traditional checkout lanes -- giving it more than 100,000 across the U.S. -- but the number that are staffed varies throughout the day.
The company and other retailers have made aggressive use of technology to cut back on labor costs and more precisely schedule checkout lanes based on real-time demand. But the drop in traffic and customer complaints have forced them to reassess the economics of that approach.
On Thursday the retail giant said it allocated more hours to the front end of the store, to overnight stocking, and to deli and bakery to improve customer service during the most recent quarter. Over the past two years, Wal-Mart said it has increased weekly hours for full-time workers from an average of 35 hours to 38 hours and from 25 hours to 28 hours for part-time workers. Wal-Mart spent $200 million more on salaries and wages in the quarter ended July 31 than in the same period a year earlier.
"We must run stronger stores everywhere we operate, with better merchandising, in stock levels and quality service," Chief Executive Doug McMillon told investors Thursday.
Critics say Wal-Mart's plans to boost staffing and wages don't go far enough. "If Wal-Mart truly invested in us and raised wages, we'd not only be able to make ends meet, it would boost sales and the economy," said Ronee Hinton, a Wal-Mart worker and member of OUR Walmart, a worker-advocacy group affiliated with and partly funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
Kantar Retail analyst Leon Nicholas said promising to staff checkouts is a "feather in their cap, a checkmark in the retail execution box, but it doesn't move holiday traffic like having the right assortment and the right quantities so that people aren't showing up to the store and finding the shelves empty."
Wal-Mart discovered after increasing the number of self-checkout systems across its more than 4,000 U.S. stores that longer lines began forming at its staffed checkouts to deal with customers with more complicated and time-consuming transactions, such as shoppers who used coupons and price matching.
The company also recently nixed a pilot program called "Scan & Go," which ran at 200 stores and allowed shoppers to use their mobile phones to scan items as they walked through stores and pay at self-service kiosks, skipping the cashiers' lines. Wal-Mart said the process was too complicated for customers.
I like the 20 or less item lanes with people with a cart full of items and the cashier says she has to take them! BS Turn them away and maybe they will respect the signs, but oh no can't lose a customer. The hell with the rest of us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
48 checkout lanes..
1 or 2 open...
with lines around the corner...
worst shopping experience ever every time I enter the sh*thole..
Its too late for me, I grew tired of the garbage when they got rid of the cashiers when they installed the machines in the first place,
I will not be lured back to the store in a bribe attempt like this one, Keep your stuff walmart. sell it to some one else.
"The move, called the 'checkout promise,' is aimed at addressing one of the retailer's biggest customer complaints: long waits in checkout lines, which can cause even more frustration when positions aren't fully staffed."
I'm confused - do they really think this complaint applies only to the holiday season, and not to every damn trip one takes to that place?
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