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Sweeping Industry News Bulletin


Recent Walmart Moves Hard to Fathom

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross
September 2022

Odd messaging from Walmart recently may be the result of the company's reported decreased profit expectations. In August the company reported it expected operating profits for the full year to fall as much as 13 percent. It also said it expected comparable sales to be up about 6 percent for the second quarter, which it was able to beat slightly.

The company's reported profit for the twelve months ending July 31, 2022 was $144.59 Billion, a 1.76% year-over-year increase.

In mid-August, at a time when Walmart reported an expectation for lower profits, it also sent some surprising messages to some of its sweeping contractors. Taken together, the company seems to be undergoing a rash of what might be called 'corporate psychosis.' The first is a report from a sweeping contractor in Nebraska who wrote to say they "got a letter announcing that, as of September 1st, all these services in the whole State of Nebraska were being cancelled:

  • Parking Lot Sweeping
  • Portering
  • Power Washing
  • Landscaping
  • Snow Removal

Their letter went on to say this action was due to "The increasing levels of food and fuel inflation are affecting how customers spend. As Walmart continues to reduce the cost for our customers, our teams are working hard on new initiatives to support the savings onto the customer." If you have any further info in this regard please let me know.

The second piece of information is what appears to be a blanket complaint sent out to current Walmart sweeping contractors. It apparently details the overall perception by Walmart managers about the state of their parking lots. Not too surprising, given that the company has cut services to 3x/week in most areas. We tried to call Mark Graham, the Walmart representative who'd sent out the letter. He not only didn't answer; we repeatedly got a message that his voicemail had not been set up.

There is little question that the lack of tact in sending a blanket message of concern to all contractors is demoralizing to the vast majority of contractors out doing a good job with cleanup on Walmart lots. They are doing the best job they can under difficult circumstances, given the large amount of debris that accumulates in Walmart lots every day. Some have become 24-hour locations, which further increases the degree of difficulty.

Contractors have reported an increase in complaints about the amount of trash in the parking lot of Walmarts where they sweep. Universally, they say these are about trash that had accumulated during their non-sweeping days. Although historically most Walmart locations have had their high-traffic locations swept nightly, recent cutbacks in many locations are to 3x sweeping/week even with the heavy traffic those stores receive every day.

Now, it appears the company may think it will save money by having employees hand-pick its lots. As those in the sweeping industry understand, this would lead to a buildup of sand and grit on the lots. On the lot this would degrade striping more quickly as well as increase the likelihood of slip-and-fall possibilities. Track-in of grit would also degrade interior floor surfaces faster.

Walmart and other retail customers appear to think they can save money – with no serious ramifications to exterior cleanliness – by reducing the number of days they have their parking lots swept. On the contractor side, they are often expected to charge at or about the same price per sweep – even though the same amount of debris is being picked up.

This perception can only be counteracted by the sweeping contractor community staying profitable on pricing when schedules are cut. Although there is widespread contractor concern about losing their big accounts like Walmart and other chain stores, it's not worth doing the work and not making a normal profit. That's why it is so important for contractors to know their costs very well so they won't be tempted to cut their pricing to unsustainable levels when schedules change.

I have contacted Walmart's corporate media department requesting an interview on this topic but, to date, no one has stepped up to provide the requested interview.

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