Once a paragon of logistics, the world’s largest retailer has been trying to improve its restocking efforts since at least 2011, hiring consultants to walk the aisles and track whether hundreds of items are available. It even reassigned store greeters to replenish merchandise. The restocking challenge emerged as Wal-Mart was returning more merchandise to shelves after a previous effort to de-clutter its stores.
Wal-Mart’s inability to keep its shelves stocked coincides with slowing sales growth.
Dudley points out that Wal-mart, once a “logistics master” to the point of “persuading suppliers to set up shop near its operations” is having a hard time keeping inventory in stock.
In 2011, Wal-Mart hired consulting firms Acosta Inc. in the U.S. and Retail Insight in the U.K. for advice on how to keep its shelves stocked. Paul Boyle, the CEO of Retail Insight, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment. Meredith Rovine, a spokeswoman for Acosta, said representatives were unavailable for comment.
At that time, Wal-Mart’s struggle to keep shelves stocked stemmed from the return of about 8,500 items to stores, following a failed effort to streamline its merchandise. At an investor conference in June of that year, Simon said he was focused on improving the company’s restocking operations.
“The only thing that really matters to us is whether the product is on the shelf or not,” he said at the time.
According to the Feb. 1 meeting minutes, Simon said: “We have to get better and remain laser-focused every day because momentum can turn against you in a second.”