The negative publicity that a former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive cast on the chain’s out of stock problems don’t speak to the chain’s actual performance, one key Wal-Mart produce executive said in mid-April.
Jerry Murray, a vice president of finance and logistics, had called Wal-Mart’s February sales a “disaster” in an e-mail obtained and reported by Bloomberg. Murray left the company April 5 amid speculation that out-of-stock issues complicated by thin staffing were contributing to recent unimpressive sales growth.
Saying that he believes Wal-Mart’s produce quality and in-stock performance is “better than it has ever been,” Dorn Wenninger, vice president of produce at Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark., provided e-mail responses April 16 to questions about out-of-stock perceptions at Wal-Mart.
The chain is making gains in the produce side of its business by focusing on getting better prices, better quality and better availability to customers, he said.
“Wal-Mart’s on-shelf availability across the store is at historically high levels, with 97% of our stores having an On-Shelf Availability score of more than 90%,” Wenninger said.
Bruce Peterson, president of Peterson Insights Inc., Fayetteville, Ark., said there’s a number of stories surfacing about Wal-Mart’s stocking problems in recent months. However, he said that may not be an accurate reflection of reality. Peterson, former senior vice president of perishables for Wal-Mart, left the chain in 2007 after 15 years with the company.
“What I find interesting about all this is that at least from a numerical standpoint, Wal-Mart is feeling pretty good about their in-stock, yet these articles are surfacing say their in-stock isn’t as good,” he said. “Where is the disconnect? Why would that be?”
Victim of scale
One reason, Peterson said, that may contribute to the disconnect is that Wal-Mart is the victim of scale, with 25% of their stores outstanding, 25% not so good and 50% of the stores average. With thousands of stores instead of dozens of stores, the chain’s weak links are exposed over a greater geographic area that is more likely to attract attention, Peterson said.
“If you have 4,000 stores, there are 1,000 stores that may be having some issues,” he said.
Now Wal-Mart is in almost every city, not just small town America, Peterson said.