Walmart Is Threatening to Close Stores, and Shoppers Won't Stand for It
The mega-retailer is facing major backlash over the CEO's recent comments.
While the pandemic and inflation have forced retailers large and small to close up shop for good, Walmart has shown impressive resilience. Although the big-box retailer closed select "underperforming" stores earlier this year, it has not faced any major nationwide closures like so many other companies. But Walmart shoppers are worried that trend might change, as the CEO recently threatened store closures—not to mention higher prices in the future. Needless to say, customers are not taking these comments lightly. Read on to find out how they're responding to potential Walmart closures.
Walmart's CEO recently threatened future store closures.
During a Dec. 6 interview on CNBC's Squawk Box, Walmart CEO Doug McMillion touched on a major problem that has been plaguing the company: shoplifting. According to McMillion, thefts have spiked significantly, and that's not the only issue. He said prosecutors in certain areas have also been negligent in pursuing shoplifters, which could put some Walmart locations in jeopardy.
"If that's not corrected over time, prices will be higher, and/or stores will close," McMillion explained, adding that it may depend on the relationships between store managers and law enforcement in different areas. "It's really city by city, location by location."
Now, shoppers are responding.
The company is facing backlash over the CEO's comments.
Shoppers aren't necessarily sympathetic to Walmart's shoplifting problem. After McMillion's appearance on Squawk Box, many people have taken to social media to call out the retailer.
Some customers are shifting the blame over shoplifting to Walmart's use of self-checkout machines. "Walmart should NOT punish consumers with store closings," one Twitter user wrote on Dec. 6. "Self-checkout has several ways people steal. That's a process quality control business problem! Not consumers!"
Instead of closing stores, some users argue, Walmart should transition back to traditional cashiers to curb theft. "Just an idea… maybe pay employees to work as checkers again?" a different Twitter user wrote on Dec. 9. "When you downsize staff and make customers check themselves out, then suddenly discover a huge theft problem, the solution does not seem to be closing stores…but what do I know? I only shop at Walmart weekly."
Another person tweeted similar sentiments on Dec. 7. "Walmart says shoplifting is a problem and may cause store closings," they wrote. "They may want to go back to checkers. That's where the theft comes from. people checking themselves out."
Meanwhile, some people simply don't believe that Walmart's shoplifting problem is a valid excuse for closing stores. "You mean the Walmart that had an income of $532 billion in 2022? That Walmart?" one Twitter user asked. "Jim, let's get real here, Walmart is not closing stores because of theft, if Walmart is closing stores its because they want higher profits."
Employees also think self-checkout is behind the rise in shoplifting.
It's not just customers who believe self-checkout might be playing a part in Walmart's shoplifting problem. An unnamed Walmart employee at a store in Spokane, Washington, told Insider that "theft is horrible" at her location since the store cut down to just six staff-operated registers a few months ago.
"If corporate actually visited at the store level and spoke with actual employees that deal with the theft, they might see how to fix the problem," the employee told the news outlet. "They are converting stores to more self-checkouts with less employees. Self-checkout is where most theft happens."
Best Life reached out to Walmart for comment on the response against the company's self-checkout usage but has not yet heard back.
Matt Kelley, a loss-prevention expert at security solutions company LiveView Technologies who previously served as a senior manager of asset protection at Home Depot, told Insider the idea that these machines have led to more theft is "definitely very valid."
"For the most part, retailers have been thinking about self-checkout through a financial-savings and customer-experience perspective," Kelley said. "But inherently that means there's going to be less eyes on a transaction. And there's going to be more of an opportunity for the dishonest people to be dishonest."
Walmart is not the only retailer dealing with a rise in theft.
During his Squawk Box interview, McMillion said theft at Walmart's stores is "higher than what it has historically been" right now. But Walmart is not the only retailer currently experiencing a spike in shoplifting.
In a November earnings call with reporters, Target's CFO Michael Fiddelke said that the retailer has seen a significant jump in shoplifting, CNBC reported. According to Fiddelke, theft at Target has increased by about 50 percent in the last year—leading to more than $400 in losses for this fiscal year.
"Along with other retailers, we've seen a significant increase in theft and organized retail crime across our business," Brian Cornell, Target's CEO, confirmed during the company's third-quarter earnings call, per Insider.