Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday that a cut of 300 headquarters workers completes a yearlong series of changes to its corporate structure that including laying off thousands of workers.
Wal-Mart President and CEO Mike Duke told employees of the latest cut in a memo on Wednesday and said the last major change was done. He said the world's largest retailer trimmed its labor force to advance its strategy of improving its "growth, leverage and returns."
The 300 workers include people in corporate affairs, finance, human resources, information systems and legal departments, Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar said.
"With this last major strategic piece in place, we are beginning our new fiscal year with every part of our business focused on being even more responsive to our customers," Duke said in the memo.
The 12,000 jobs at Wal-Mart's Bentonville headquarters are crucial to the northwest Arkansas economy.
Wal-Mart, which generated $400 billion in sales last year, has been able to grab wealthier consumers trading down from higher-priced stores during the recession. But it also has noticed signs of growing financial strain among its core customers, including more pronounced swings in spending between paycheck cycles.
Duke said an essential part of Wal-Mart's culture is always striving for greater efficiency. He said the company's new fiscal year, which began Monday, is off to a productive start.
"Last fall, we laid out three strategic priorities to deliver even more value for both customers and shareholders: growth, leverage and returns," Duke wrote. "Each move has been designed to help us become more global, take advantage of our scale, and move our business even closer to the customer."
Wal-Mart, which has 2 million employees worldwide, has changed its global sourcing network and, last month, cut 11,200 jobs in its 600-store Sam's Club warehouse division when it turned over in-store demonstrations to an outside company. The cut amounted to 10 percent of Sam's Club's work force of 110,000. Sam's also closed 10 underperforming stores, which cost another 1,500 jobs.
A year ago, Wal-Mart cut between 700 and 800 headquarters workers in its real estate, apparel and health and wellness departments. That layoff followed a reduction in the number and size of new stores Wal-Mart said it would build. The company also plans to renovate many existing stores.
Speaking to investors last week, Wal-Mart Vice Chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright said that the steps would help "facilitate our growth as we seek to enter new markets and develop new segments across the U.S. and will drive efficiencies by allowing us to better leverage our resources."
Wal-Mart isn't alone in trying to reduce overhead as consumers continue to spend very carefully. Home Depot Inc., the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, said last month would lay off 1,000 employees as it cuts three pilot programs and some support positions. The cut amounts to less than 1 percent of Home Depot's more than 300,000 workers.
Bookseller Borders Group Inc. announced last month it would lay off 164 employees — less than 1 percent of its work force of 22,5000 — to cut costs amid slumping sales.
Wal-Mart, which reports on its earnings Feb. 18, has experienced some softness in its U.S. business. In the most recent quarter, its Walmart chain saw sales at U.S. stores open at least a year fall 0.5 percent, though total sales rose 1.6 percent in stores abroad. Adjusted for currency fluctuations, international sales rose 12.1 percent.
AP Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio contributed reporting from New York.
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