OPERATIONS

Walmart to raise starting wage; expand benefits

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart is raising its starting wage for all hourly associates in the United States, handing out bonuses and expanding maternity and parental leave benefits — including providing financial assistance for adoption.

The nation’s largest private employer will increase the starting wage rate for its more than one million hourly associates in the United States to $11, and provide a one-time cash bonus for eligible associates ranging from $200 to up to $1,000. (Rival Target raised its minimum wage to $11 last fall.) The company said the changes partially motivated by anticipated savings from the new tax plan, which provides deep tax cuts to corporations.

The pay increase, which takes effect in the Feb. 17, 2018, pay cycle, is in addition to wage increases Walmart has already planned for many U.S. markets in the coming fiscal year.

The cash bonus will be provided to all eligible full and part-time hourly associates. The amount will be based on length of service. Associates with at least 20 years will qualify for $1,000.

This increase in wages will be approximately $300 million incremental to what was already included in next fiscal year’s plan. The one-time bonus represents an additional payment to associates of approximately $400 million in the current fiscal year, which ends Jan. 31, 2018. Walmart said a “discrete” one-time charge will be taken in the fourth quarter of the current year to account for the bonus.

Walmart is also expanding its parental and maternity leave policy, providing full-time hourly associates in the U.S. with 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Salaried associates will also receive six weeks of paid parental leave.

The retailer will also provide financial assistance to associates adopting a child. The adoption benefit, available to both full-time hourly and salaried associates, will total $5,000 per child and may be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal or court costs.

“Today, we are building on investments we’ve been making in associates, in their wages and skills development,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO. “We are early in the stages of assessing the opportunities tax reform creates for us to invest in our customers and associates and to further strengthen our business, all of which should benefit our shareholders. However, some guiding themes are clear and consistent with how we’ve been investing — lower prices for customers, better wages and training for associates and investments in the future of our company, including in technology. Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.”

Walmart said it is early in the process of assessing potential additional investments.

“That assessment will be done not only through the lens of associates, customers and shareholders, but also within Walmart’s financial framework of strong, efficient growth, consistent operating discipline and strategic capital allocation,” the company stated.

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Warehouse club is stepping up personalization execution

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A new platform is positioning BJ’s Wholesale Club to better connect with individual shoppers.

By expanding its partnership with Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, the warehouse club plans to add the technology provider’s TCx Vector solution. These retail applications will help BJ’s deliver more personalized offers to its members.

The new solution provides a comprehensive approach to planning and executing promotions and loyalty programs. The platform is designed to provides actionable insights needed to efficiently plan and execute targeted promotions.

BJ’s plans to integrate the technology within its continued rollout and expansion of self-checkout systems and other mobile shopping solutions. Both companies will also focus on the rapid development and deployment of new capabilities through the TCx Elevate digital commerce platform — a move that will bridge all of BJ’s channels, touchpoints and apps together. As a result, BJ’s can deliver more engaging customer experiences, improve productivity and increase profits, according to Toshiba.

“We are committed to making shopping at BJ’s even more convenient, and strengthening our relationship with our members,” said Scott Kessler, executive VP, CIO, BJ’s. “We look forward to expanding our partnership with Toshiba in order to deliver rapid innovation with TCx Vector and the Toshiba TCx Elevate Platform.”

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Study: Retailers make technology a key priority for 2018

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Using technology to improve the shopping experience is topping a majority of retailers’ 2018 to-do lists.

More than half (53%) of retailers will focus on leveraging technology to improve the shopping experience this year. This is an impressive jump from the 27% of retailers feel their current infrastructure is already capable of improving the in-store experience, according to a report from Zynstra, a software provider of intelligent edge infrastructure.

According to the data, only one-quarter of retailers said their in-store IT allowed them to frequently and regularly improve their in-store experience. Meanwhile, one-fifth said they had to delay or reject a past roll out of new in-store applications because of IT limitations, costs or concerns.

Retailers also plan to use technology to improve operational efficiencies (44%), enhance security and compliance of in-store IT (42%), drive in-store innovation (34%), mitigate the risk of end-of-life technology (27%), and incorporate all engagement channels in a single platform (17%).

“In today’s retail environment, particularly those organizations with a distributed branch network, having the right technology in place to support both operations and overall customer experience is a key competitive advantage,” said Nick East, CEO, Zynstra. “Increasingly, we’re finding the biggest impact on store cost and day-to-day operational efficiency improvements lie in implementing an intelligent edge infrastructure with end-to-end management and control.”

According to results, virtualization of point-of-sale systems is also playing an increasingly important role in in-store efficiency. Twenty-three percent of retailers said they already use the technology, while 26% said they would adopt it as soon as possible, and 21% said they would do so in the next two years.

“2018 is a crucial year in laying down the infrastructure that will reduce costs today and provide a long-term platform for a consistent and intentional customer experience,” said East. “In the challenging retail conditions that are predicted, those who don’t take this step are going to lose out.”

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