Retailers like to say there was no game book for 2020, and that certainly goes for Walmart too.
At CES 2021 this week, President and CEO Doug McMillon explained how exactly the retailer did in a year of upheaval, with priorities shifting as 2020 went on.
While tackling the pandemic and racial justice protests that summer, McMillon identified six priorities for how business needed to change at America’s largest retailer.
1. Protection of personnel
Walmart’s top priority was the safety of its employees, including protecting their physical, financial, and emotional health. The retailer was able to make efforts in this regard that surprised even its CEO.
“It was amazing to me how quickly our team was able to secure tens of millions of surgical masks for our employees,” he said. “In the early days, they put plexiglass on our cash booths [and] in our pharmacies across the country in a matter of days and weeks which was incredible to me. “
2. Meet demand
Priority # 2 was to keep the supply chain moving after unexpected spikes in demand left store shelves empty.
“You will remember – especially in the early days – that the country’s meat distribution system was under pressure, and there were really many challenges with food in the beginning and then with general goods,” said McMillon. “I recently went to a store where we are still struggling to stock up on adult bikes and all the things people want when they are at home or want to go outside take care of theirs Garden . … The demand has really changed for many of these items. “
3. Use the cash flow wisely
After taking care of her employees and customers, Walmart began helping its business partners and communities.
“We gave the rents, we gave different terms to the suppliers, we did different things because we knew we had cash flow and some of our partners and employees who are part of our large supply chain needed help,” said McMillon .
The retailer also streamlined its hiring process from a week to just 24 hours, including background checks, and ended up hiring more than 500,000 new employees.
“We have hired all kinds of people who had to come to work for a temporary period, some of whom are still with us. Some of them have returned to the jobs they had before when the reopening took place across the country.” he said added.
4. Prepare for the future
After getting to grips with the immediate crises of the pandemic, Walmart looked ahead to position itself for future Covid purchases.
“There have been behavioral changes in shoppers driving our e-commerce and pick-up and delivery businesses out of our stores,” said McMillon. “And so we were largely prepared and able to react.”
Additionally, he noted that many of these changes will stay here.
“The pick-up and delivery businesses are just getting bigger and bigger and we’re ready to make the most of them,” added McMillon.
5. Promotion of racial justice
Amid the seismic shift in consumer behavior caused by the pandemic, another reckoning came for retailers. McMillon noted that the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020 led the retailer to make further progress on diversity, equity and inclusion.