News Briefs


Walmart Plans Hourly Wage Increase Amidst Competitive Retail Labor Market

walmart teaser

Over the next few months, retail giant Walmart plans to roll out wage increases and a set of new learning and development opportunities for its workforce.  

In a memo circulated to all U.S. associates, Walmart president and CEO, John Furner outlined four key areas of planned investment and growth, starting with higher salaries. Starting in March, associates stand to see the store’s average hourly wage rise to over $17.50 and $14 an hour for store employees. Currently, Walmart associates can earn between $12 and $18 an hour, meaning around 340,000 store employees – or 21% of Walmart’s 1.6 million-strong workforce – will have received a raise in the next few months. 

Among the other plans on the agenda, the retail giant plans to invest in their Auto Care Center associates, implementing better-paid team lead positions and pushing ACC tech positions into a higher-paying bracket to reflect the specialized skill sets required for the role. 

Thirdly, the company plans to build out their Live Better U (LBU) education program, covering full tuition for college degrees and certificates in areas that the company says focus “on where our business is headed.”

Walmart plans to expand their Associate-to-Driver Program – a development program open to all associates which covers all fees for commercial truck driver training and licensing.  

Speaking at NRF 2023, Furner gave an overview of the current state of retail, highlighting opportunities and acknowledging the many challenges on the horizon. The tight labor market has been one of the most acute of these difficulties for retailers, and these latest additions to Walmart’s value proposition represent another step towards trying to remedy persistent staff shortages.


Karl Lagerfeld Streamlines Inventory Management With AI-Powered Allocation

Karl Lagerfeld

Fashion brand Karl Lagerfeld is automating allocation across its network, tapping artificial intelligence to streamline inventory management.

The company is working with supply chain planning software ToolsGroup to improve customer satisfaction, elevate sell-through potential, and increase financial performance by expediting the planning process, reducing inaccuracies, and fine-tuning forecasts to ensure ideal stock placement. 

Timothy Justin Dreijer, senior vice president of retail, supply chain and operations, IT and legal affairs at Karl Lagerfeld, said the company was looking to implement a solution that would prepare it for its current and future business growth goals. 

“The fact that these solutions are backed by services teams who explain technical concepts in easily digestible ways and communicate openly and clearly only bolstered our confidence in this partnership,” added Dreijer.

“Today’s supply chains have the potential to be differentiators in the market. Innovative retailers understand that realizing this potential depends on powerfully simple AI solutions that enable optimal decisions at the speed of business,” said ToolsGroup CEO, Inna Kuznetsova.  


Albertsons Completes Rollout of Predictive Ordering and Inventory Management Software Platform


Albertsonhave completed the enterprise rollout of a new predictive ordering and inventory management system across more than 2200 banner stores, including Safeway, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Vons and ACME.

The implementation is powered by fresh food technology company, Afresh, and aims to help store teams to better order and plan fresh produce inventory and reduce food waste, ultimately improving sustainability across the business. While rollouts of this nature can take several years to get off the ground, Afresh and Albertsons were able to complete the project across stores in just seven months, the companies noted. 

Afresh’s CEO and co-founder Matt Schwartz said the quick turnaround was made possible by “a strong partnership with the Albertsons Cos. team and their willingness to embrace innovation and be a real partner in technology."

[See Also: Could the Kroger and Albertsons Merger Create a Powerhouse, Inflation-Proof Brand?]

Afresh’s food technology also enables store managers to gather valuable data and insights through their software tools, which also leave room for a margin of error in the notoriously difficult-to-predict fresh produce grocery division. 

“Driving sustainability practices across Albertsons Cos. is essential to our business and the communities we serve,” said Suzanne Long, chief sustainability and transformation officer at Albertsons Cos. “Our partnership with Afresh helps us improve ordering and better manage our inventory of fresh fruits and vegetables so our customers have access to fresher products, and we’re able to make meaningful progress toward achieving our goal to have zero food waste going to landfill by 2030.”


The Home Depot Looks to Improve Workforce Efficiency With New Sidekick App

Home Depot mobile app

The Home Depot is looking to help its associates better prioritize tasks with a new machine learning-powered app called Sidekick. Part of the company’s suite of mobile devices dedicated toward improved associate and customer experiences (hdPhones), the new app communicates the highest demand product, shelves that need restocking, and where excess product can be found on overhead shelves. 

The app has already rolled out in more than 600 stores, with plans to expand to all U.S. stores by the end of 2022. Capabilities include:

  • A cloud-enabled machine-learning algorithm that identifies actionable tasks and sets deadlines
  • Machine vision technology that can detect and automatically fill out-of-stock products, as well as locate products across the store
  • Notifications for associates about tasks that needed to be completed in order of priority, run via a tasking engine
  • A dashboard displaying where and how to complete a task with both associate and manager views
  • Data and task integration across the Home Depot’s other platforms

Also: Walmart and Home Depot Find Strength In Mobile App and Tech Investments Amid Volatile Environment

“The first step to customer service is being in stock with the right product that’s easy to locate,” said Muzammil Akram, vice president for store technology of The Home Depot, in a statement. “Equipping our associates with innovative technology is one key factor in delivering on that initiative. Sidekick is the perfect addition to hdPhones because it utilizes a data-driven approach to help our associates prioritize which tasks will benefit our customers the most.” 


Del Taco Levels Up Drive-Thru With AI-Powered Voice Tech

Del Taco restaurant

Drive-thru ordering is getting an upgrade. Del Taco Restaurants, Inc. will be implementing automated voice ordering at several of its locations across the country. The artificial intelligence-powered (AI) tech, already tested at select Del Taco locations, will have a more widespread implementation following a successful pilot run. 

The company first started testing the Presto Voice technology, provided by Presto, last year. An AI voice assistant greets guests, accepts their orders, and also includes conversational upselling features. Orders placed through the AI system are automatically sent to the POS system and kitchen display system. 

According to the company, the tech has improved labor productivity, increased suggestive selling, and elevated the guest and staff experience. It reports that 95% of its drive-thru orders placed with Presto Voice have been completed without staff intervention. Additionally, Presto states the upgrade minimizes human error, reduces wait times, and frees up staff so they can focus on the customer experience.

“With Del Taco’s desire to build a drive-thru that improves operational efficiency while delivering an elevated guest experience, the Presto AI-based voice assistant solution is a natural choice,” said Kevin Pope, vice president of operations innovation at Del Taco, in a statement. “The Presto platform and team have exceeded our expectations and we are excited as we prepare to deploy the solution at additional restaurants across the nation.”


Small-Format Bloomingdale’s Makes Its Way to Seattle

Bloomingdale's Bloomie's small-format store rendering

Macy’s-owned Bloomingdales introduced its smaller concept store, Bloomie’s in the summer of 2021. The brand has been quickly expanding, and is now making its way to Seattle. 

Making its west coast entrance in 2023 within University Village in the Ravenna neighborhood of downtown Seattle, the more casual contemporary, curated experience will feature top brands across both men’s and women’s categories, including apparel, accessories, beauty, gifts, and more. 

According to earlier announcements, the store highlights merchandise that is rotated out multiple times per week, offering returns dropboxes, and buy-online-pickup-in-store as well as curbside pickup. 

Within the store, stylists provide personalized shopping experiences with the help of digital selling devices. These include customization and alteration services, and fitting room assistance through the simple push of a button. 

"We are thrilled to enter the Seattle market with the opening of our third Bloomie's location," said Charles Anderson, director of stores, Bloomingdale's. "The new flexible store experience has been well-received in other cities as it remains authentic to the Bloomingdale's brand yet brings a new and exciting energy to our shoppers. We can't wait to be a part of the community and for the people of Seattle to be a part of the Bloomie's story."

Bloomie’s stores are currently located in Fairfax, Virginia and in the greater Chicagoland area. This concept is part of its three-year Polaris strategy that includes testing smaller-format stores