Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BUSINESS & FARM - ROB­BIE NEISWANGER

“As we said in Jan­uary, we’re con­tin­u­ing to look at how the com­pany is struc­tured, which in­cludes in­vest­ing in and adding jobs in some ar­eas and elim­i­nat­ing some in a few others.” Randy Har­grove, Wal-Mart spokesman

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. com­pleted an­other round of home of­fice lay­offs in Ben­tonville on Thurs­day, con­tin­u­ing its re­struc­tur­ing ef­forts un­der Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Doug McMil­lon.

The re­tailer de­clined to re­veal the num­ber of em­ploy­ees who were let go dur­ing the lat­est round or to spec­ify the af­fected de­part­ments. But mul­ti­ple sources in­side the com­pany said work­ers in the mer­chan­dis­ing and re­plen­ish­ment di­vi­sions were among those hit Thurs­day. A source said a “few dozen work­ers” were af­fected.

An­other source said mer­chan­dis­ing po­si­tions elim­i­nated were at the se­nior di­rec­tor and di­rec­tor lev­els.

“As we said in Jan­uary, we’re con­tin­u­ing to look at how the com­pany is struc­tured, which in­cludes in­vest­ing in and adding jobs in some ar­eas and elim­i­nat­ing some in a few others,” Wal­Mart spokesman Randy Har­grove said Thurs­day. “This is all about align­ing and cre­at­ing ef­fi­cien­cies as we change how we work to seam­lessly serve our cus­tomer through our stores and e-com­merce.”

Har­grove also said there were “sev­eral dozen pro­mo­tions” in the com­pany Thurs­day, in­clud­ing cat­e­gory team as­sis­tants be­ing el­e­vated to mer­chan­dise spe­cial­ists. Those em­ploy­ees work with buy­ing teams in mer­chan­dis­ing, ac­cord­ing to Har­grove. The lat­est moves con­tinue what has been months of re­struc­tur­ing for the com­pany, which is mak­ing ef­forts to man­age costs and im­prove ef­fi­ciency as it com­petes with other re­tail­ers like Ama­zon. com.

The ef­forts in­cluded about 1,000 work­ers be­ing laid off

across mul­ti­ple di­vi­sions dur­ing a round of job cuts be­fore the end of the fis­cal year on Jan. 31. The cuts in­cluded 511 work­ers at the com­pany’s home of­fice in Ben­tonville, ac­cord­ing to a Worker Ad­just­ment and Re­train­ing No­ti­fi­ca­tion Act fil­ing.

In ad­di­tion, about 300 jobs in the com­pany’s in­ter­nal sys­tems divi­sion in Ben­tonville were among those af­fected by cuts in early April.

“This is mul­ti­ple rounds and mul­ti­ple rounds,” said Brian Yar­brough, a re­tail an­a­lyst with Ed­ward Jones. “Ei­ther these guys were way, way too fat, or they’re get­ting aw­fully thin.”

Any dis­placed em­ploy­ees are to get up to 60 days of pay as they look for new

jobs. There will be out­place­ment ser­vices, re­sume and skill train­ing, and coun­sel­ing through an em­ployee-as­sisted pro­gram. If af­fected em­ploy­ees haven’t found work af­ter that 60- day pe­riod, they’ll re­port­edly be of­fered sev­er­ance pack­ages based on length of ser­vice with the com­pany.

Ben­tonville Mayor Bob McCaslin said he had not been no­ti­fied by Wal-Mart about an ad­di­tional round of home of­fice lay­offs as of Thurs­day morn­ing. McCaslin said his first con­cerns were with any in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies af­fected by the lat­est round of job cuts.

But McCaslin said he hasn’t no­ticed any­thing “cat­a­strophic” and still be­lieves Ben­tonville re­mains healthy de­spite the lay­offs that have oc­curred at the com­pany’s home of­fice this year.

“This em­ployer is a gi­ant

in­flu­ence on Ben­tonville, Ben­ton County and Wash­ing­ton County, Northwest Arkansas,” McCaslin said. “But when they do these cor­rec­tions or mod­i­fi­ca­tions that we’ve seen in the past, those peo­ple typ­i­cally are work­ing some­where else some­times even within the com­pany within the next six months.”

“Give [Wal-Mart] credit. They know how to change course and keep go­ing.”

Some con­cern about Wal­Mart’s re­struc­tur­ing has been voiced pub­licly.

Ben­tonville School Board mem­ber and Wal- Mart at­tor­ney Matthew Burgess re­ferred to this year’s lay­offs dur­ing a July 17 School Board meet­ing when dis­cussing whether to ear­mark funds to­ward the com­ple­tion of a sta­dium at Ben­tonville West High School.

Burgess said dur­ing the

pub­lic meet­ing that he’d like to wait and see how the dis­trict’s growth pro­jec­tions play out over the next year or two be­fore mak­ing a fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment to the sta­dium. He men­tioned lay­offs this year at Wal-Mart as a sign of po­ten­tial trou­ble in the lo­cal econ­omy.

“There is some in­sta­bil­ity,” Burgess said.

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