Wal-Mart Says Tech Investments, Such as Warehouse Drones, Will Boost Online Sales
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executives touted the technology investments the world's No. 1 retailer is making to boost online sales, during the annual shareholder meeting on Friday.
Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon spoke about initiatives like online grocery pick up, the retailer's two-day shipping program and its mobile wallet, Wal-Mart Pay. His comments capped off a week-long media event where the company displayed drones in warehouses and announced a partnership with Uber to deliver online groceries.
"We get to reimagine retail again, and that's what we are going to do," McMillon said. He also said changes to boost e-commerce sales will take some time to show results.
Wal-Mart onlines sales growth has sharply decelerated for five quarters even though its overall performance has been better than most competitors.
In the first quarter, online sales growth was 7 percent, down from 8 percent, 10 percent, 16 percent and 17 percent in the previous periods. In 2015, Wal-Mart's online sales rose 12.3 percent to $13.7 billion, which was less than the jump of more than the 16 percent for market leader Amazon.com Inc., to $92.4 billion.
The meeting at the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetville, 30 miles from the company's headquarters in Bentonville, was packed with 14,000 people,
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The enthusiastic atmosphere momentarily turned somber after two shareholder proposals demanded higher wages, better treatment of employees and an independent chairman. The proposals did not get adequate votes.
Wal-Mart in February 2015 said it will lift its base pay to $10 an hour in 2016, a step it has implemented this year. Labor groups feel this is not enough.
Union backed group OUR Wal-Mart kept up pressure, and its workers met McMillon earlier this week, delivering a petition demanding higher wages signed by several thousand Wal-Mart workers.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union published a full-page advertisement in a national newspaper on Friday asking shareholders to focus on struggling workers.
Labor groups have been demanding $15 an hour from retailers including Wal-Mart. The $15 minimum wage, also called "Fight for Fifteen" movement, has been a hot issue in cities across the country as well as in the U.S. presidential campaign, with Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders calling for a $15 “living wage.”
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Fayetteville, Ark.; Editing by David Gregorio)