Walmart tests higher hourly starting wages in 500 stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart said it is testing higher wages for new hourly positions at 500 of its United States (US) stores as part of an overall strategy to better empower its staff.

The nation’s largest private employer, which operates roughly 4,700 namesake stores in the US, said it will be raising the starting hourly wages to USD12 from USD11 for these new roles.

These workers will be trained and empowered to develop broader retail skills. For example, they’ll help solve problems like inventory issues instead of only completing tasks given to them by managers, according to a Walmart spokeswoman Jami Lamontagne.

The moves come as Walmart, like many other retailers, is under pressure to improve customer service as it fights online behemoth Amazon.

Walmart Inc raised its starting pay to USD11 an hour in early 2018. That still lags other rivals like Target. In 2017, Target announced a plan to raise starting hourly wages to USD15 by the end of this year.

Target’s starting wage is currently at USD13 per hour. Amazon, jumping out ahead of the pack, raised the minimum wage for hourly workers to USD15 in late 2018.

Chief commerce strategy officer of Publicis Communications Jason Goldberg applauded Walmart’s latest move.

“Retailers are increasingly in competition for decent workers,” he said. “They have to pay more to get employees who are competent.’’

A Walmart associate checks out customers at a Walmart Supercenter in Houston. PHOTO: AP