Walmart recently announced that they were going to add 10,000 jobs. It bucks a trend in retail that has seen job losses and bankruptcies. This comes as the retail industry suffered through a rough 2016. Through the end of November 2016, the retail industry shed 57,969 jobs. Among the retailers cutting jobs in 2016 were Verizon, Nordstrom, and Ralph Lauren.
2017 is looking like another rough year for the retail sector. Earlier this year Macy’s announced the closure of 68 stores and the loss of 10,100 jobs. The retailer laid off over 4,000 and closed 36 stores in January 2016. Sears and K-Mart have also announced the closure of a combined 150 stores; Sears sold off its Craftsman line and K-Mart remains a brand on life support.
As Walmart’s competitors have been forced to contract and consolidate, the retailer has been continuing to expand. There are several reasons why. Some of those reasons include the ability to take advantage of the changing business climate, but also Walmart has been able to recognize the changing American culture and has adjusted itself accordingly.
Walmart’s major selling point has always been in the words of its most famous slogan, “always low prices.” Although the slogan has changed, that is still basic summary of Walmart’s advantage of its competitors. Walmart will sell its products at a lower price than any of its competitors and consistently done so for decades. The company also doesn’t rely on gimmicks and sales to get customers through the door because it doesn’t have to. Other retailers still rely on coupons and sales promising deep discounts in order to get value hungry customers.
Such an “everyday low prices” model is designed to appeal to the average American. Unlike most of its department store competitors, Walmart appeals to the average American instead of a higher-end customer or someone looking to at least buy that image. Instead of the hipster or fashionista, Walmart’s customers are often those trying to stretch their dollar.
But low prices aren’t just the only reason why Walmart is weathering the retail storm. The stores have improved in quality. When Target was cutting into Walmart’s retail share, two of the reasons why were Target offered better quality merchandise and customer service. Walmart has recently upped its game in both departments. They have increased the quality of their merchandise and more importantly, they have begun addressing their customer service problems.
Walmart has created training academies to give its employees ongoing training in customer service. The training is constantly ongoing in order to continue reinforcing the initial training. The training takes place both online and in store. In addition, the retailer is increasing its wages. They are now paying all American workers a minimum wage of $10 an hour. This model should sound familiar because it is the one employed by, which is the nation’s favorite fast food restaurant. The chicken chain is known for investing in its employees and Wal-Mart is now doing the same.
As a part of improving its customer service, the store has brought back people greeters. The people greeters also serve as a deterrent to shoplifting and theft.
Walmart has also adapted to the changing retail environment. For example, it has embraced online retail better than most of its brick and mortar retailers. The store offers competitive pricing for products online and offers multiple shipping options such as delivery to the customer’s house or free delivery in store. The “delivery in store” option is a beneficial one for Walmart because it saves on shipping costs and it has a chance to sell the customer more products inside the actual store.
Not only has Walmart embraced e-commerce better than most brick and mortar competitors, it has branched out into other services. Walmart is an increasingly bigger player in grocery retail. Every Walmart supercenter has a full-sized grocery store with a far more impressive selection than what most Super Targets offer. Walmart has also developed the Neighborhood Market concept which are smaller grocery stores designed to compete with grocery chains such as Kroger, Safeway, Winn-Dixie, and Albertson’s. Walmart now even offers customers the chance to place a grocery order online or through a smartphone app and have the order delivered to the customer’s vehicle.
But Walmart is not just groceries and other merchandise. Many Walmart supercenters are mini shopping malls offering everything from McDonald’s to a bank branch.
Walmart’s values have stayed largely in line with those of middle America. In recent years, the company has made an effort to “buy American” which comes as the country is looking increasingly inward. It’s also smart business especially since there is a very good chance that some kind of “border adjustment tax” or possibly even tariff increases will become law this year. Walmart has even expanded the number of stores that sell firearms, making it the nation’s largest gun retailer. Finally, Walmart has largely avoided the culture war issues that competitors such as Target have gotten caught up in.
Walmart’s appeal to the average American, respect for middle America’s values, and business savvy have enabled it to adapt to the changing retail environment. It will continue to be a good bet for years to come, even as many of its competitors fall by the wayside.
Kevin Boyd is a Louisiana-based writer and commentator who has been previously published by PracticalPoliticking.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TheKevinBoyd, , the Foundation for Economic Education, the R Street Institute, the Capital Research Center, and other media outlets. He also serves as the Blog Editor at