How Walmart Is Recession-Proofing Itself

Walmart is recession-proofing itself by honing in on strategies rooted in flexibility, quick reaction, and long-term planning.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

workers with cancer walmart trucks target

At a time when the country’s financial future is teetering on the edge of uncertainty, some companies have identified ways to thrive rather than survive. And Walmart tops that list. The company has made news headlines recently due to its success when other corporations are experiencing sky-high layoffs. 

But why are they experiencing not just stability but growth? Because they truly are growing. Walmart ended the third quarter of 2022 with an 8.2% growth in sales.

Additionally, the company recently announced a bump in minimum wage and some pretty impressive earnings for its in-house truck drivers. All these wins stand in stark contrast to companies like Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and more, which have recently laid off thousands of workers. So, what are they doing differently?

Forbes recently did a deep dive into some strategies Walmart has implemented to answer that question. And what they found was pretty fascinating. It all comes down to flexibility, quick reaction, and long-term planning.

According to CEO Doug McMillon, “We are engineered for flexibility.” And Sunesh Kumar, the global CTO and chief development officer, agrees with that sentiment. He said, “We [will] serve our customers the way they want, where they want, and how they want.”

“It’s not just only about reducing friction, but creating a delightful customer experience,” Kumar continued. One of the ways Walmart intends to accomplish that mission is to focus on tech and IT. In fact, the company intends to hire an additional 5,000 IT workers to add to its existing 20,000 tech-focused employees. 

Additionally, “Walmart re-shaped its corporate governance by ranking technology experience second only to retailing in board qualification criteria,” according to Forbes. So now, seven of the company’s board members have significant leadership experience in tech. On top of that, Walmart slightly restructured its chain of command, which turned out to be good news.

After the company hired Kumar in 2019, he began reporting directly to McMillon. That move removed the traditional obstacle of having tech report through operations or finance. And it appears to have helped propel Walmart into an impressive level of technological advancements.

But the focus on technological improvements and flexible practices helped Walmart stay focused and ahead of the game throughout the pandemic. It also may protect the company from a looming recession. That is because the retail giant’s leadership team has focused on leveraging those focus areas into improved strategic planning initiatives. 

“McMillion highlighted on Walmart’s FY 2023 Q2 earnings call, ‘Beyond membership [growth], the team is also working on getting items to customers faster, while lowering the cost of delivery. Speed matters — whether it’s how quickly we get items to customers or scale new businesses. I’m excited about the growth I’ve seen so far and the expectations looking ahead.’”

That strategy is clearly working. Walmart has improved its online shopping experience to better position itself against competitors like Amazon. And it is building strategic partnerships to expand its in-house delivery service.

These moves are excellent ways to build a robust and healthy company that may actually survive a recession. But even better…it is good news for customers. After all, we all benefit when retailers try to improve our shopping experience.