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(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Friday it would eliminate the position of zone manager in its U.S. stores while adding up to 8,000 new department heads as part of an overhaul of its store operations.
There are about five zone managers in each of Wal-Mart's 3,407 supercenters, and those employees will be reassigned to department manager or assistant manager positions, spokesman Kory Lundberg said.
In addition, Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, plans to add 7,000 to 8,000 department manager positions, Lundberg said. The cost of doing so is included in the $1 billion investment in wages and staffing outlined in February, he said.
The moves are part of broader strategy by the retailer to rejuvenate sales in the United States by bolstering customer service and addressing other perceived weaknesses such as poorly stocked shelves.
"Putting in new departmental managers will make a significant difference," Judith McKenna, chief operating officer of Wal-Mart's U.S. operations, said at a briefing for analysts and investors earlier this month.
The company, which has a total of 4,500 Walmart stores in the United States, in February flagged plans to increase the number of department store managers but had not disclosed a number. It also said then that it would lift the minimum starting wage for department heads to $13 an hour this summer and $15 an hour next year while lifting the minimum pay of half a million rank-and-file workers to at least $9 an hour this month.
Zone managers, which have been in charge of a handful of departments, have been told of the change over the past few weeks. In switching to other manager roles in the store they will be paid at least what they make now or more, Lundgren said.
Increasing the number of people overseeing just one department, such as electronics or produce, will allow managers to focus more narrowly on engaging with workers and ensuring their department is meeting customer needs, Lundgren said.
Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker