Wal-Mart reassures employees as it touts tech investments

Mon Jun 5, 2017 1:52pm EDT
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By Nandita Bose

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc executives on Friday reassured workers they remained integral to the company's success as they highlighted investments in online sales and other technology to compete with rivals like Amazon.com Inc.

Wal-Mart is successfully using e-commerce to boost sales but does not want to alienate workers who have helped drive gains with improved customer service and higher morale following a rise in base pay to $10 an hour.

"We will compete with technology, but win with people," Chief Executive Doug McMillon said at Wal-Mart's annual shareholder meeting where all the company's board member nominations were approved. "We will be people-led and tech-empowered."

The nod to store employees and the retail workforce was a departure from past years when the company focused shareholder presentations on the technology it was adopting to close the online gap with Amazon and beat other competitors.

The shift followed complaints by labor groups that Wal-Mart had to do more for workers, despite the company's $2.7 billion investment in employee training and wages in 2015 and the 2016 wage increase to $10.

McMillon's comments capped a three-day media event during which the company announced initiatives like a test program that allows store workers to deliver packages ordered on the retailer's website and the use of blockchain technology to ensure safety in its food supply chain.

Wal-Mart's investments in technology helped deliver a 63 percent rise in first quarter online sales, up from 29 percent growth in the fourth quarter and 20 percent in the third quarter.

Its results have also outshined rivals like Target Corp, department-store chains and apparel retailers.   Continued...

Conveyors are seen at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc distribution centers in Bentonville, Arkansas June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo  GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE Ð SEARCH ÒBUSINESS WEEK AHEAD JULY 4Ó FOR ALL IMAGES - RTX2JK7F