Another Lesson from Walmart


This should go without saying, but pet retailers, don’t be like Walmart.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve come across several reports about how the big-box retailing machine Walmart is increasingly having trouble keeping its shelves well stocked. The problem, it seems, stems from the company’s efforts to reduce manpower while continuing to add new locations at a rapid pace. One recent report claims that these dynamics have led Walmart to go from an average of 338 employees per store to just 281 per store over the last five years.


And customers are noticing the impact at the shelf, which they are increasingly finding empty.


There is an important lesson here for pet retailers. While tough economic times will understandably drive storeowners to streamline their operations as much as possible, there is a fine line between finding staffing efficiencies and shooting yourself in the foot.


Drawing down your employee schedules to the point where it negatively impacts the store’s stock and ability to deliver a high level of customer service can be tantamount to retail suicide in today’s competitive marketplace. Every shopper who leaves your store unsatisfied could be a customer that has been lost forever. And how many more staff hours will you have to cut to make up for that?


It will be interesting to see how this development plays out for Walmart. Who knows, maybe the retail giant’s low-price approach will prove forgiving of its difficulty in keeping shelves stocked. Or maybe the company will figure out how to do more with less staff—it wouldn’t be the first time that Walmart proved the naysayers wrong.


What is certain is how such a trend would play out for the average independent pet store, which would quickly find its shelves, employee schedule and cash register empty.

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