Wal-Mart makes holiday ‘checkout promise,’ pledges to staff every register

Bentonville, Ark. -- A day after announcing a disappointing second quarter, Wal-Mart Stores has made an aggressive holiday promise to its customers: the world’s largest retailer says it will staff every cash register from the day after Thanksgiving through the days just before Christmas during peak shopping times.

Wal-Mart’s "checkout promise" is aimed at addressing lengthy waits in checkout lines.

"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 with the Wall Street Journal. "Taking the possibility of waiting in long lines off the table will attract more people into stores."

On Thursday, Wal-Mart reported flat same-store sales and negative traffic counts, as the discounter continues its struggle to win back customers who’ve moved their business over to smaller nearby rivals. Now, Wal-Mart is taking aim at the holiday season as a hugely important opportunity to attract customers via operational efficiencies.

"We must run stronger stores everywhere we operate, with better merchandising, in stock levels and quality service," CEO Doug McMillon told investors Thursday.

Analysts are skeptical that Wal-Mart’s “checkout promise” will really make a difference. 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.

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