“If you are having an in-stock problem in New York or Chicago, somebody is going to write about that,” he said.
Another contributing factor could be the change in how stores are managed and supervised, Peterson said, with less experienced workers in the department.
Store-level attention to produce merchandising is changed from what it used to be, Peterson said.
“They used to have produce merchandisers that went into stores to teach, train and supervise, and they don’t have those anymore,” he said.
Standardized containers — RPCs — are being used more as a fixture than an operation scheme, Peterson said.
“They are moving toward conventional merchandising schemes more than RPC-oriented execution.”
There are many analysts who believe Wal-Mart sales increases are not as robust as they once were is because of strains on their labor force, said Dick Spezzano, California-based retail consultant.
While the chain has a system of automatic replenishment with reorders after a certain level of sales, there can be breakdowns in the system.
“What we hear is the product is in the back room but not getting on the shelves,” he said.
If that is the case, the problem of store-level execution is the critical issue, Spezzano said.
“Sam Walton used to say they have ordinary people doing extraordinary work,” Spezzano said.
“When you have ordinary people doing ordinary work, it doesn’t quite cut it,” he said.
Wenninger said Wal-Mart is investing in its staff and efficiencies in the supply chain.
“We’re investing in sourcing, replenishment and our store associates to bring this to life,” he said.
Wenninger said the chain surveys 500,000 customers per month, and Wenninger said customer satisfaction numbers have trended upward over the past two years.
During the past three years, Wenninger said Wal-Mart has established produce buying offices in all the major growing regions of the U.S., Mexico, Central America and Chile.
“We’ve also invested in improved replenishment systems and are undertaking significant associate training and monitoring initiatives focused on in-store execution,” Wenninger said.
Specifically, Wenninger said Wal-Mart has introduced what it calls the Global Replenishment System across produce to help ensure the chain has the right amount of produce in the right place at the right time.