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Bloomberg reports that Walmart has decided to remove greeters from the late shifts at its stores all over the country, saying that the move will save money and help it better regulate staffing levels.

According to the Bloomberg story, the move is seen as “chipping away at a 30-year tradition of making sure all shoppers are welcomed to the store,” and diluting the legacy of founder Sam Walton, who “added greeters in 1980 to make his giant low-price stores friendly and welcoming. Cutting back, even during the early morning hours, shows Wal-Mart is rethinking longheld traditions to boost profit margins and guarantee low prices, said David Strasser, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia.”

Walmart has been under financial pressure in the US because of a long string of quarters in which its domestic operations had stagnant same-store sales; after nine such quarters, the retailer finally broke the unfortunate streak last October with a quarter showing a 1.3 percent same-store sales increase.
KC's View:
The reality is that this probably won’t have much of an impact on the late-night shopping experience at Walmart; at that hour, people probably are thinking more about getting in and out, and not about being welcomed at the front door. (And I have to be honest here. Greeters at Walmart stores are a mixed bag. I go to a lot of Walmarts, and sometimes the greeters are effervescent, sometimes they grunt at you, and usually they are somewhere in between. Not a lot of consistency, in my experience.)

The larger problem may be the fact that this story is being reported in a lot of places, creating a perception issue for the company. And, in each of these stores, employees also are aware of the greeter cuts ... which could have them wondering where the next cuts will be. it is hard to charge forward when you’re spending time looking over your shoulder.

We always argue here on MNB for defining and exploiting whatever your differential advantages are, and whatever you think of Walmart and however inconsistent its greeter program may be, the fact that it had greeters at every front door during every hour its stores were open was one of the company’s defining differences.

One steps away from such differences at one’s own peril.