This has been a big week for Walmart and it just keeps on coming. Walmart, who is the nation’s largest private employer, announced yesterday that thanks to President Trump’s tax cuts they would be raising their employees’ minimum wage to $11 an hour. That’s quite a jump.
They also announced a sliding scale of bonuses for workers. A Walmart spokesman told CNBC that employees who have been with the company for more than 20 years will be eligible for a one-time $1,000 bonus. Those with two to four years of experience will receive a $250 bonus. Employees with five to nine years of experience will receive a $300 bonus. Those with 10 to 14 years of work there will receive a $400 bonus and those with 15 to 19 years of service will receive $750. They will expand maternity and paternal leave benefits as well. Walmart said the wage increases will cost $300 million and the bonuses will cost $400 million.
“Today, we are building on investments we’ve been making in associates, in their wages and skills development,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and chief executive officer. He also stated, “It’s our people who make the difference and we appreciate how they work hard to make every day easier for busy families.” Walmart also vowed to offer financial assistance to their associates who decide to adopt a child; the credit will total $5,000 per child and may be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal costs. When it’s all said and done, the wage and benefits that Walmart is putting in place will impact well over one million Walmart employees.
But it wasn’t all uplifting news for Walmart this week. At least not for the employees. At least 63 Sam’s Clubs are being shuttered across the country. A number of them did not open yesterday and what was even worse was they did not tell employees they were closing down. A number of them may reopen briefly to sell off inventory, but the official closing date is Jan. 26th.
Now, approximately 500 Walmart and Kroger stores are going to replace their cashiers with technology. That’s more bad news for employees, but to stay alive in the digital age and compete with Amazon, Walmart has to do this. These stores will utilize a smartphone app that eliminates the need for customers to interact with cashiers, according to published reports. Both have already been testing and using the technology, but look for it to massively expand this year. Walmart just announced that 100 more stores will use its “Scan & Go” app. I find this fascinating. A few select markets are already testing the app… Texas, Florida, South Dakota, Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky are using it. Two-hundred Walmart stores will have the technology by the end of 2018.
You shop like you normally would, but when you pick up something you want, you scan it with your phone and put it in your basket. The app displays the cost of each item, along with a running total. When you are done shopping, you can pay directly with your phone instead of standing in a long line at the register. Before leaving the store, Scan & Go customers will walk through a Mobile Express lane for security purposes. Sounds pretty darn good if you ask me. Question… how do you scan produce?
Some of the test stores have Scan & Go kiosks that allows customers to try out the system on a store handheld device before downloading the app to their phones. Kroger is using a similar technology, called “Scan, Bag, Go.” They have four hundred stores that are set to utilize their app later this year. At Kroger, shoppers can use either a phone app or a hand-held scanner provided by the store. Again, it will keep a running total for you and automatically offer any applicable coupons. Kroger’s app will eventually feature the ability to alert shoppers when they walk by an item that is on their shopping list. When they are done shopping, customers will head to a self-checkout register to pay. Similar to Walmart, Kroger will eventually offer shoppers the ability to pay directly from their phones. Welcome to the future.
This allows for faster, more efficient shopping. It also cuts the employment overhead for the companies. Just as in the Industrial Revolution, those pushed out for the new technology will eventually find other positions that open up. Although it may require all new training. This is the wave of the future though, not only in retail, but in fast food and restaurants. We have officially arrived in the digital age.