Walmart, love them or hate them, is a leader in energy efficiency and reducing waste. They do this because it saves money. Their new WAVE truck (Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience) weighs two tons less than comparable semis, has superb aerodynamics, and a turbine engine. They want to double big rig MPG to 10, saving potentially $25,000 per year per truck. They have 6,500 big rigs in their fleet so the potential savings is $162,5000 a year (plus a whole lot less pollutants in the air.)
The Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience, or WAVE, concept truck is the latest in our fleet efficiency program. The one-of-a-kind prototype offers a whole package of firsts. The tractor has very advanced aerodynamics and is powered by a prototype advanced turbine-powered, range-extending series hybrid powertrain. The trailer is made almost exclusively with carbon fiber, saving around 4,000 pounds which can then be used to carry more freight.
Walmart shelves are increasingly empty with the predictable result that customers are going elsewhere, to Target and Costco. Oh, the goods are in the stores but are piling up in the back. The problem is Walmart won’t hire enough employees to keep shelves restocked. In the past five years the numbers of employees at Walmart has dropped 1.4% while the number of US stores has increased 13%. For a supposedly savvy retailer, Walmart is shooting itself in the foot.
Target and Costco aren’t making these greedy short-sighted mistakes. Walmart’s big pitch is their low prices. Yet Target matches them on price now. Here in Silicon Valley, both Walmart stores do indeed have conspicuously numbers of empty shelves. Checkout lines are long. It’s not fun to shop there. By contrast, Target is clean, efficiently run, has much shorter lines, and shelves are full.
“We’re not getting as many sales because there’s simply no one to help the customers throughout the stores,” said Jackson, 24, who has worked at two Wal-Mart stores since 2009. “I asked, ‘Why can’t we have enough hours to make the store work?’ They said, ‘It’s orders from Home Office,’” she said.
Here in California, the venerable and iconic Trader Joe’s continues to thrive no matter what the competition. They have their niche and hugely loyal customers. One reason is the friendly service. You can always quickly find an Trader Joe’s employee if you have a question or need to find something. Too often at Walmart, there are simply no employees to be found. That’s the difference.
Walmart February sales are the worst since 2007, say Walmart executives in leaked emails blaming expiration of payroll tax cuts and lateness of income tax refunds (due to our paralyzed Congress) as primary reasons.
“In case you haven’t seen a sales report these days, February MTD sales are a total disaster,” Jerry Murray, Wal- Mart’s vice president of finance and logistics, said in a Feb. 12 e-mail to other executives, referring to month-to-date sales. “The worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”
Some are a bit skeptical of these reports. However, they were from leaked emails so presumably the execs were being honest with each other. Thus this doesn’t seem to be a political ploy. Rising gas prices and stealth inflation could easily also be factors.
Walmart is the 800 pound gorilla of retail. For them to have sudden, unexpected bad sales is a bad harbinger. We have a Congress that appears incapable of doing much of anything and Obama has done little to help the economy at large. So maybe the Walmart news shouldn’t come as much of a surprise after all.
Doug Henwood continues the discussion, making the cogent point that while Walmart wages may be average for retail, that Walmart has played a major role in lowering wages and cutting benefits. Because of their size, they set wages as well as prices.
By lowering the cost of the bare minimum, Walmart makes it a lot easier for all employers to pay less. That brings a smile to the faces of stockholders, of course, but no so much the average worker.
Walmart is the 800 lb. gorilla of retail, so they get the focus. If Walmart raises wages then the prices they charge will also increase, something which will hurt their low-income shoppers. If your family earns $25,000 a year, then saving $20 a week on food by shopping at Walmart is not trivial.
Walmart could raise wages and not raise prices, cutting their profit margins. However, this could well cause shareholder lawsuits.The underlying problem is that we have a predatory economic system based solely on maximizing profits which gives no thought to the health of the system overall.
Peter Suderman at Reason tweeted several counters to the progressive view that Walmart is inherently evil. Business Insider has posted them. I tend to agree. Walmart is so freaking huge that no matter what they do, it will have consequences. They currently emphasize renewable energy, cutting waste in packaging, and put compact florescent light bulbs into the mainstream – all of which can be considered progressive They also pay crappy and have lousy benefits. As do many other retailers.
We recently lived in Cedar City UT for two years. Without a Walmart there, goods and food would be much harder to find, and much more expensive. Plus, when a Walmart comes to a town of 30,000, Home Depot usually does do, and that helps even more.
And you can’t beat Walmart’s prices. Really. For example, to a family of four living on $25,000 a year or less, spending $25 less on groceries a week is a serious big deal.
5.Walmart’s wages are about average for retail. Not amazing. But not the worst either.
A range of studies has found that Wal-Mart’s prices are 8 percent to 39 percent below the prices of its competitors.
That’s a huge savings for households in the bottom quintile, which, on average, spend 26 percent of their income on food. In fact, it is equivalent to a 6.5 percent boost in household income.
I am also upset by the rise of inequality and the relatively slow economic progress that the bottom 80 percent of Americans have made over the last several decades. I just think Wal-Mart is the wrong place to put the blame or to expect the solution.