NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart laid off 450 workers at its headquarters Friday as the world's largest retailer attempts to become more nimble so that it can better compete with the likes of Amazon.com.
There are more than 18,000 people who work at the headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., a close-knit community in northwest Arkansas. The cuts were across all areas, from finance to global e-commerce. The company says that the employees were spoken with individually early on Friday.
The layoffs follow months of rumors about them and they arrived less than two months after Wal-Mart trimmed its annual earnings outlook as profits fell. That is partly because of hefty investments Wal-Mart has made in e-commerce as well as higher wages for hourly workers.
A previous round of layoffs in Bentonville was announced in 2010 when 300 jobs were eliminated, but the latest marks the largest cuts since 2009, when the discounter laid off 800 em
ployees as the United States emerged from the recession.
While it is the behemoth of retail, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is attempting to make changes that will allow it to "move with speed and purpose," according to a memo sent by Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon to employees on Friday. Wal-Mart is facing intense competition on all fronts, ranging from Amazon.com and dollar stores to the traditional grocery store chains it has tried to challenge.
"Our customers are changing. Retail is changing and we must change," McMillon wrote in the memo obtained by The Associated Press. "We need to become a more agile company that can easily adapt to shifting customer demand."
Retailers are getting leaner and more agile. Target laid off 1,700 employees this year, and Whole Foods Market announced this week it would cut 1,500 jobs over the next eight weeks.