Posts tagged with "Walmart"

The great giveback: Retailers team up with FedEx, UPS, Whole Foods to make returns easier

December 29, 2020

Retailers and logistics companies have struggled to get shoppers’ holiday gifts delivered on time. Now, they’re gearing up for what’s expected to be a brutal season for unwanted, returnable goods headed back in their direction, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Following a coronavirus pandemic-fueled surge in online sales, up to $70.5 billion worth of online holiday purchases are expected to be returned—up from $42 billion last year—according to a forecast from commercial real estate brokerage CBRE.

Many retailers that encouraged people to start their holiday shopping early also have extended their return deadlines this holiday season—and have tried to make it easier, once you get in the vicinity of the store, to get your money back. Still, the Tribune reports, returns aren’t as seamless as clicking “buy” online—and most merchants don’t offer contact-free options that enable consumers to stay in the car during the return transaction.

It’s not just because people are buying more gifts online. It’s because there are more people shopping online, including some who typically prefer to shop in person and aren’t accustomed to buying online,  Steve Osburn, managing director of Retail Strategy at Accenture, told the Chicago-based news outlet.

.Shoppers also admit that they’re now more likely to buy the same item in multiple sizes; then, keep the one that fits. About 62% of U.S. shoppers said they “bracketed” purchases, up from 48% last year, often because they gained or lost weight or were shopping at a new store and weren’t sure what size to pick, according to a September survey by Narvar, a company that helps retailers manage returns.

Retailers prefer shoppers return items in stores rather than ship them back because they can get items back on shelves more quickly, Osburn said.

But this year, the desire to avoid unnecessary trips to stores could push more people to seek mail-in options. About 30% of consumers surveyed by Narvar said it was easier to ship items back, up from 25% last year.

Walmart this week announced that FedEx will pick up returns at customers’ homes. Customers still need to pack items for shipment, which can be tougher when people are working from home without access to a printer to print the shipping label, but the service is free for items shipped and sold by Walmart.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced customers can return items at 500 Whole Foods Market stores without a box or shipping label. Amazon already had a returns partnership with Kohl’s. Amazon shoppers also can return items at UPS locations, in some cases without packing them up.

Returns service Happy Returns partnered with FedEx this fall to let shoppers return items from brands like Everlane, Rothy’s and Steve Madden at 2,000 FedEx locations with no box or shipping label.

Happy Returns previously had about 600 locations, which were mostly at malls and retailers like Paper Source and CostPlus World Market. The new FedEx locations adds convenience while making the service “COVID-proof” since FedEx is an essential business that will stay open, CEO David Sobie told the Tribune.

And, as return drop-off options have expanded, use has grown. Nearly 30% of shoppers surveyed by Narvar in September said they had taken their most recent return to a designated drop-off location like a pharmacy or another retailer’s store, up from 16% last year. About 35% of shoppers took their return to a carrier to mail back and 12% returned their item to the retailer’s store.

Some retailers are also trying to streamline traditional store returns.

Dick’s Sporting Goods will let customers return items through curbside pickup, as long as the purchase was made with a credit or debit card. Others say shoppers must come inside to make a return, though Narvar CEO Amit Sharma said he expects more retailers to announce curbside returns in January.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Walmart removes guns from floor displays, citing ‘civil unrest’

November 2, 2020

Retail giant Walmart has removed guns and ammunition from its U.S. sales floors out of concerns about theft amid “civil unrest” during Black Lives Matter protests against police killings in areas nationwide, The Huffington Post reports.

Guns will remain available for purchase upon request, said the company, which sells firearms in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores.

Walmart has pulled guns off its shelves in the past. The current move comes after the October 26 shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr. by Philadelphia police —while the 27-year-old was experiencing a mental health crisis and after his family had called for an ambulance to help him.

“We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” Walmart said in a statement first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s important to note that we only sell firearms in approximately half of our stores, primarily where there are large concentrations of hunters, sportsmen and sportswomen,” the company said.

Walmart said in a letter to store managers cited by the Journal that the decision was made “due to the current unrest in isolated areas of the country and out of an abundance of caution.” A Walmart in Philadelphia was trashed during this week’s unrest.

Walmart has been pushed to make adjustments to its firearms department after other incidents of violence. After a mass shooting left 17 people dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the retailer raised the minimum age to purchase guns to 21. In 2019, after 23 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in Texas, the retailer stopped selling ammunition for assault-style rifles.

Research contact: @HuffPost 

Editor’s note: As of Monday, November 2, Walmart had reversed its position: ““As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today,” a company spokesperson said.

Walmart to check worker temps, and provide masks and gloves

April 2, 2020

Walmart has some new “people greeters”—but they are for employees, not customers. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant will begin checking workers’ temperatures this month, and providing them with gloves and masks—stepping up its safety protocols as it hires roughly 5,000 employees a day to meet heightened demand during the coronavirus crisis, The Boston Globe reports.

The company is shipping infrared thermometers to all its stores so that employees can have their temperatures checked when they report for work, the company announced in a blog post. The thermometers should arrive in three weeks.

The masks will arrive within two weeks. Walmart notes, “They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators—which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers.

“We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them,” the retailer says, “while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them.”

“Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary,” the blog post said, adding, “The associate will not be able to return to work until they are fever-free for at least three days.”

Walmart said its employees are eligible for as much as two weeks paid leave, if they are required to quarantine; and that absences would not be held against them.

Most retailers have been pummeled by the coronavirus shutdown. Indeed, the United States had a record 3.3 million jobless claims last week—but not Walmart. The nation’s largest private employer has ramped up hiring and is on track to have 150,000 jobs filled by the end of May, executives announced in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

The company has shortened its hiring process from an average of two weeks to “as little as 24 hours,” HR Dive reported.

The company promises, as it continues to build up its workforce, “We will continue to consult with health officials and experts inside and outside Walmart as this situation evolves. We greatly appreciate the work our associates are doing for customers, members, and their communities, and we will continue to prioritize their health and well-being.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Mochi ice cream goes mainstream

December 10, 2019

Walk into any supermarket today and you’ll find what used to be exotic edibles: They are called mochi—and they are small, frozen, bite-size balls of ice cream encased in rice dough.

In just the past three years, this finger food confection has evolved from an exotic niche dessert to a mainstream product, popping up nearly everywhere, including malls, street fairs, and major supermarket chains, CNN reports.

Mochi was invented in the United States nearly three decades ago, and was originally made using ice cream flavors with an Asian flair.

“It’s been around since the 1990s, but mochi ice cream was mostly available in specialty Asian food stores or on menus of Japanese restaurants in flavors like green tea, red bean and mango,” said Russell Barnett, a food industry veteran and chief marketing officer of Los Angeles-based My/Mo Mochi.

To help bring it to the masses, My/Mo created a flavor list most consumers felt instant familiarity with, such as chocolate sundae, S’mores, cookies & cream, strawberry, double chocolate and mint chocolate chip.

“I grew up eating vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. Green tea and red bean weren’t a common part of the flavor profile in most households,” he told CNN.

Barnett recognized the inherent appeal of mochi ice cream to Millennials, a group he calls “a snacking generation.” Mochi is a portion-control snack of about 110 calories per ball, easy to hold and eat on the go. “We just retooled and adjusted it for today’s consumers,” he said.

My/Mo Mochi ice cream (which is gluten-free with some dairy free varieties) is produced at a manufacturing facility in Los Angeles and sold in packages of six, CNN reports. They’re also sold individually in portable freezers that Barnett calls self-serve “ice cream bars.”

Currently, My/Mo Mochi is now available in 20,000 stores nationwide. “We are in Target, Kroger, Walmart and everything in-between,” said Barnett. “We are reaching the masses where they shop.”

Competing mochi ice cream brands include Bubbies, Maeda-En and Mr. Mochi, but the My/Mo Mochi brand has captured close to 90% of market share, according to data from Nielsen. The brand’s sales were $175 million in annual revenue in 2019, according to Barnett.

Research contact: @CNN

Sorry, your essential oils are essentially snake oils

October 3, 2019

The squeaky wheel—or painful joint—gets the oil: In fact, many people think that the “essential oils” sold by a range of businesses, from apothecaries to drug stores to Walmart, are magical healing potions that also relieve pain.

But according to an October 2 report by The Huffington Post, these great-smelling elixirs do not live up to their health claims—and are actually no more effective than snake oil.

What exactly are they? According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, they are highly volatile substance isolated by a physical process from an odoriferous plant of a single botanical species. The oil bears the name of the plant from which it is derived; for example, rose oil or peppermint oil.

Such oils originally were called “essential” because they were thought to represent the very essence of odor and flavor. And when we say originally, we are referring to the fact that essential oils can be traced back to ancient times, when people used them to make medicinal ointments, perfumes and, possibly, embalming fluids.

While we may no longer use them to mummify loved ones, essential oils have made a major comeback in recent years as a popular and powerful natural-healing solution for various ailments and conditions, the HuffPost says.

Many people say the plant-based oils—like lavender, mint and eucalyptus—relieve their migraines more swiftly than over-the-counter drugs. Some people say oils boosted their libido when nothing else seemed to do the trick.

The oils can be applied to the skin, topically, or inhaled. And each plant is tied to a specific health benefit: Peppermint is believed to increase your energy, lavender may help you calm you down, jasmine is understood to lift your mood. Some scents are even touted as able to fight cancer symptomsheart diseaseinfections and diabetes.

Of course, it’s hard to invalidate any one person’s personal experience if they say something personally helped them. However, the HufffPost reports, despite the widespread claims made for essential oils, there is little science actually backing up the testimonials and not much is known about how safe and effective these products are.

Sure, the oils may smell delicious―and the occasional whiff won’t do you any harm and may even help certain issues in the moment―but many experts say they don’t live up to all the health claims.

“So many people are ill, and are looking for something to help them feel better, it’s hard for them to walk away from a simple and natural therapy such as essential oils,” Felice Gersh, an ob/gyn and founder of the Integrative Medicine Group of Irvine, California, told HuffPost.

Essential oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration—and the research we do have on the oils is often based on very small or poorly designed studies, Gary Soffer, the acting director of the integrative medicine program at the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut, told the news outlet.

“The widespread use of essential oils without a substantial body of evidence to support it is certainly concerning,” Soffer said. “While they are generally safe, it can be shortsighted to simply see them as completely risk free.”

Still, those who swear by the oils include health professionals. Some experts suspect this is because of a very convincing placebo effect.

“Across many conditions—including anxiety, depression, and pain—when people believe something is helpful, they sometimes experience benefit,” Keith Humphreys, a psychiatrist at Stanford Health Care in Stanford, California, told the HuffPost during an interview. “Any claims of healing power beyond the placebo effect should be regarded with extreme skepticism.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Sticking to their guns: Walmart asks employees to pull violent video game signage from stores

August 12, 2019

Even a mass shooting at its El Paso, Texas, store is not enough to make Walmart gun-shy, it became apparent last week, when the major retail chain asked employees its employees nationwide on August 10 to take down signs and playable demos of violent video games—but made no changes to its policy on selling firearms.

According to a report by Reuters, in doing so, the retailer said it has taken the action following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in the past week, which left 31 people dead.

In an internal memo, the retailer asked employees to check their stores for signage or displays that contain violent or aggressive behavior and remove such items immediately. It also instructed employees to turn off hunting season videos.

The company has come under increasing pressure to act in the past few days. A petition started by Thomas Marshall, a category manager in Walmart’s San Bruno, California-based e-commerce business, to protest the retailer’s sale of firearms, has gathered more than 50,000 signatures by Friday, Bloomberg reported.

Walmart told Reuters there has been no change in its policy on gun sales after the mass shootings, one of which took place in a Walmart store. This has not always been the case: Years of public pressure led Walmart, the largest U.S arms retailer, to end assault-rifle sales in 2015 and to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 in 2018.

Some gun control activists and Walmart customers now want the retailer to drop sales of guns and ammunition altogether.

Research source: @Reuters

Last licks: Woman caught on social media licking store ice cream and putting it back faces years in jail

July 8, 2019

A woman who licked more than her lips at a Walmart store may find herself in the “cooler” soon. The “mystery shopper” (who has not yet been identified by authorities) went viral on social media recently for licking a tub of ice cream and returning it to the frozen food display.

Now police say that, when they find her, she faces up to 20 years in prison for the prank, according to a July 4 report by NBC News.

The footage of the escapade—which already has been viewed more than 11 million times— shows the so-far unnamed woman opening a container, running her tongue across the ice cream; then laughing as she places the violated dessert back in the freezer, in a branch of Walmart in the city of Lufkin, eastern Texas.

She could face a second-degree felony charge of tampering with a consumer product, the Lufkin, Texas, Police Department said in an email statement to NBC News. The charge comes with a two- to 20-year prison term and up to $10,000 in fines, according to Texas state penal code.

Police also want to speak to the man she was with, who is thought to have filmed the incident and can be heard encouraging the woman to “Lick it, lick it.”

According to NBC, investigators also are in discussions with the FDA and additional federal charges could be made.

“Our detectives are working to verify the identity of the female suspect before a warrant is issued for her arrest on a charge of second-degree felony tampering with a consumer product,” a police spokesperson said.

“As that portion of the investigation continues, detectives are focusing on identifying the male (in the green shirt) behind the camera seen in images of the two entering the store together.”

Blue Bell Creameries, the local manufacturer of the ice cream brand the woman licked, has called the incident a “malicious act of food tampering.”

All tubs containing the mix of creamy vanilla ice cream with swirls of chocolate fudge and dark-chocolate-covered roasted peanuts have been removed from the store’s shelves as a precaution, the company said. The specific carton believed to be compromised was found among the lot.

In an earlier statement, the company explained that its cartons are frozen upside down in production, which creates a natural, tight seal by freezing the lid to the tub, meaning consumers would notice if any tampering occurred upon opening a fresh tub.

Research contact: @NBCNews

To attract teenage staffers, Walmart offers free SAT and ACT prep

June 5, 2019

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, announced on June 4 that it will offer free college SAT and ACT prep courses to its high school-age workers, as well as several online, general education college classes at no cost through Guild Education, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Walmart estimates about 25,000 people under the age of 18 work at its stores—a fraction of its 1.3 million person U.S. workforce. The company is looking to attract and retain more workers, right from the start of their careers.

The new offer represents an expansion of a program Walmart launched last year called Live Better U, which provides affordable access to a college degree for full-time and part-time workers who have been with the company at least 90 days.

Based in Denver, Guild Education offers “education as a benefit” to corporate workers through a program that costs $1 a day. Classes are sourced through nonprofit universities with online programs that have had success working with adult learners.

Guild, which is a startup says it is planning on expanding the number of degrees it offers—beyond business and supply management to an additional 14 that will include cybersecurity and computer science. Walmart says these programs will help provide workers with skills it needs in the future.

About 7,500 adult workers are already enrolled in the program. Walmart expects 68,000 of its employees to be enrolled in the next several years.

Walmart is competing with other major employers to find and retain higher quality, entry-level employees in a historically strong labor market.

The unemployment rate dropping to a five-decade low of 3.6% in the most recent jobs report issued by the Labor Department, and the average hourly pay rose 3.2% compared with a year ago. The economic expansion, which has fueled 103 straight months of hiring, is set to become the longest in history next month.

High schoolers represent an increasing challenging group for recruiters. In fact, only 26.4% of teens are expected to have a job by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down from 34% in 2014.

Research contact: @ChiTribBiz 

Walmart offers your pet medications—no fetching required

May 9, 2019

Animal, vegetable, or mineral? In its all-out competition with Amazon—as well as every other online and brick-and-mortar low-cost retailer—Walmart is offering more to those who shop in most consumer categories, including pet products.

On May 7, WalmartPetRx.com announced that it is offering economical pet prescriptions “for dogs, cats, horses, and livestock from over 300 trusted brands to treat conditions like flea and tick, heartworm, allergy, arthritis, and more.”

Customers now can purchase prescription pet medications at the stores or online, and have them delivered right to their (doggie) doors.

By working directly with veterinarians to receive and fill prescriptions, we’re able to save busy pet parents time, which could mean another walk around the block for Cooper,” said Kieran Shanahan, SVP of Retail–Food, Consumables, Health & Wellness, Walmart U.S. eCommerce, in a company press release.

He noted, “For those who prefer to fill their pet prescriptions in Walmart stores, later this month we’ll stock our 4,500+ pharmacies with the top-30 most-requested pet meds, which means getting your pet’s prescription same-day.”

What’s more, the discount chain said it is stocking a more wholesome assortment of pet foods and expanding its in-store veterinary clinics. Indeed, the discount chain has expanded its pet assortment online with more than 100 new brands over the past year, including Blue Buffalo, Greenies, and Hill’s Science Diet. It also is marketing premium and “free-from” options for its private-label brands, Pure Balance, Golden Rewards, and Vibrant Life, at three-fourths the price.

And, with 68% of US households owning a pet and 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart store, the chain is expanding its in-store retail veterinary clinics, starting with nine new clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in late May and June.

“With plans to reach 100 veterinary clinics over the next 12 months, these clinics offer affordable, high quality and convenient services to save customers as much as 40% to 60% on vaccines and minor illness packages and exams,” Shanahan said.

Research contact: @Walmart

Walmart rolls out robotic ‘smart assistants’ at its locations nationwide

April 10, 2019

Every hero needs a sidekick: Think of the selfless contributions of R2D2 of Star Wars fame, Optimus Prime of the Transformers superhero franchise, and Robot from Lost in Space.

And now, Walmart believes, the stockroom, janitorial, sales, and front-end associates at its discount stores could use a little robotic help, too. So, as of April 9, the largest U.S. retailer has announced that it will be putting automated helpers at its locations nationwide.

“Smart assistants”—which is what the retailer has dubbed its automated staff—“have huge potential to make busy stores run more smoothly,” Walmart said in a press release this week.

Indeed, Walmart has been pioneering new technologies to minimize the time each associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks—such as cleaning floors or checking shelf inventory. This gives associates more of an opportunity to serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor.

Throughout the year 2018, pilot tests of these technologies have been well-received. “But it’s not enough to have these cutting-edge systems in just a few locations,” the company says.” That’s why additional technologies are coming soon to stores across America.”

And, Walmart promises, “We’re going big.”

Among the new additions will be:

  • 300 additional shelf scanners, aka “Auto-S”: This technology scans items on store shelves to help ensure availability, correct shelf location, and price accuracy.
  • 1,200 FAST unloadersWorking with the shelf scanner, the FAST unloader automatically scans and sorts items unloaded from trucks, based on priority and department. This allows associates to move inventory from the back room to the sales floor more quickly.
  • 900 pickup towers: When a customer places an order online and selects for an in-store pickup, an associate loads the ordered item into a pickup tower. The customer then receives a notification via email that the item is available from the pickup tower; which works like a giant vending machine to retrieve and unload the purchase.

That’s a lot of extra help for associates—and the staff is enthusiastic. According to SVP of Central Operations for Walmart U.S. John Crecelius, “Our associates immediately understood the opportunity for the new technology to free them up from focusing on tasks that are repeatable, predictable, and manual.

“It allows them time to focus more on selling merchandise and serving customers, which they tell us have always been the most exciting parts of working in retail.”

Research contact: @Walmart