Wal-Mart Keeps Forecast, Reaches Out to Displaced Employees

Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart Stores today maintained its September sales forecast and said 18 of its locations remained closed in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. On a recorded message, the retailer said it still expects a 2% to 4% increase in same-store September sales, although it reiterated that the forecast is subject to the impact of Katrina and rising oil prices.

Of the 18 shuttered Wal-Mart locations, 15 are in Louisiana. The chain, which had closed as many as 126 stores in the path of Hurricane Katrina, said that 89 facilities have reported damage. It said nine have major damage, 41 moderate damage and 39 minor damage or merchandise lost.

Wal-Mart said it has made contact with more than 65% of its 34,000 workers who were affected by the storm. The discounter said it would relocate employees from closed stores who wish to work to other locations.

“Wal-Mart is committed to providing work for displaced associates who want to work in open stores,” the company said in a release.

Wal-Mart, which so far has contributed $17 million to relief efforts, is using its vast information systems and in-store technology to help employees and the general public access information and relief services in the aftermath of the hurricane. The chain has activated an on-line Emergency Contact Registry whereby customers and its associates can e-mail, post and search for messages regarding family and loved ones using the hiring-center kiosks, connection-center kiosks and gift-registry kiosks in any Wal-Mart location.

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