Walmart clients do not anticipate a speedy financial restoration, high exec says

Shoppers wear masks while shopping at a Walmart store in Bradford, Pennsylvania on July 20, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Janey Whiteside, Walmart’s chief customer officer, said Tuesday that many of its shoppers don’t expect the economy to recover quickly from the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly half of customers surveyed in November said Walmart were concerned about the current health of the economy, she said at the National Retail Federation’s virtual conference. She said 40% said they did not expect a “quick recovery”.

“Our main Walmart customer is absolutely not immune to the economic slowdown, and may even be disproportionately affected,” she said, noting that the pandemic has divided society as it has not hit some industries such as hospitality and others.

Walmart’s sales and earnings have increased during the pandemic as customers turned to its 4,700+ U.S. stores and website for groceries, hair colors, puzzles, and more. Revenue from the same store rose 6.4% and US ecommerce sales rose 79% year over year for the third quarter ended October 31. The company has yet to report its fourth quarter results, including Christmas shopping, of the season.

However, according to Whiteside, the company finds that customers are feeling financially troubled trying to put groceries on the table and juggle other expenses such as school supplies for their children. She said, “Taking care of this group of customers who need us more than ever is the fuel that keeps Walmart going.”

“We know they continue to look for ways to save money on basic items. Whether you’re moving from a national brand to a private brand, look for small pack sizes and cherry picking deals when they’re available.” said she said. “We also know that they continue to make sure they don’t have to forego experiences for their families, so take a look at where to balance the wallet.”

On Monday, Walmart announced that it had created a fintech start-up with the venture capital firm Ribbit Capital. It didn’t say what services it could launch, but said they’ll be affordable. Walmart already offers some financial products like prepaid debit cards for customers with bad credit or no relationship with a bank.

Walmart’s plan to open health clinics is also geared towards affordability. The clinics offer lower prices that are listed in advance and can be paid out of pocket, e.g. E.g. $ 30 for an annual examination or $ 45 for a consultation session.

“In these times when everyone has so much on their minds, we also know that saving time and relieving the cognitive burden on people is also important,” said Whiteside.

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