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Retail

Walmart Sees Sustained Pressure From Inflation, Will Slow Hiring Pace

By Reuters
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Walmart Sees Sustained Pressure From Inflation, Will Slow Hiring Pace

Walmart has said inflation would continue to pressure its business this year, and that it would slow its pace of hiring as it builds out automation technology amid a tight labor market.

"We believe, over time, the number of associates will grow, but at a slower pace than in the past as we complement people growth with technology and automation," chief financial officer John David Rainey said at the company's investor meeting in Tampa, Florida.

Automation

Rainey's comments come after the retailer on Tuesday said it expects about 65% of its stores to be serviced by automation within three years. The company does not anticipate any near-term layoffs besides the ones it has announced already.

Reuters reported last month that the company was letting go of hundreds of workers at at least five facilities that fulfill orders placed on Walmart.com.

The company, which has more than 5,000 US stores, also kept its April quarter and full-year sales and profit forecast.

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Inflation

Asked about Walmart's assumption of the rate of inflation in its guidance at the investor meeting, Rainey said he expects this year "to be somewhat anomalous" as the company still feels the effects of higher prices. He, however, anticipates that inflation will ease to 3% by the end of the year.

"While some investors may have been hoping for an increase (in the forecast), we see the reiteration as favorable, and potentially still leaving some room for upside with a month to go (in the quarter)," D.A. Davidson analyst Michael Baker said.

Private Label

More than 56% of Walmart's sales come from groceries, where inflation has been the fiercest. Labor department for February shows that food prices in the United States were up 9.5% compared to the same time a year ago.

Executives said that Americans continue to reach for private-label brands over national brands - a shift that has helped Walmart's private-label business to account for more 20% of its total sales of over $600 billion (€549 billion).

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Walmart shares were up 1.2% in morning trading.

News by Reuters, edited by by ESM – your source for the latest retail news. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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