“Save money. Live better,” Wal-Mart’s slogan boasts. And who would know better how to accumulate wealth and live fantastically than the Walton family, the owners of the corporate giant?
Announced Jan. 15, by the end of the year, Wal-Mart will have closed 269 stores worldwide. The company will close 154 locations in the United States. Seventeen Wal-Marts in North Carolina will permanently shut their doors Jan. 28.
North Carolina is second only to Texas, with 29, in the number of Wal-Marts closing. Sixteen-thousand employees in total will lose their jobs, 10,000 of these being domestic.
So why is Wal-Mart closing so many stores all at once?
Looking at Wal-Mart’s stock prices for the past year, they do seem as though they have significantly decreased. However, when you look at trends for the past five years, they seem fairly typical, especially considering that shares peaked at $91.35 per share in January 2015. Another indicator that Wal-Mart isn’t closing stores due to financial difficulties? They still plan to open 300 new stores in the coming year.
Wal-Mart as a whole is not suffering, though the Walton family would have you believe otherwise. The Waltons, with more wealth than the lowest 42 percent of American families combined, is the richest family in the U.S. It’s hard to imagine that the company ranked No. 1 in Fortune 500’s 2015 list of largest companies by revenue is hurting so badly. An annual revenue of $482 billion, Wal-Mart’s economic weight is comparable to the GDP of Norway.
In an effort that seems like damage control, Wal-Mart released the news that it will be substantially raising its minimum wage, with more than 1.2 million employees receiving pay raises. Assuming this does more than account for the inflation of the past few years, such an upgrade is long overdue, considering the employer’s past discrepancies, such as eliminating healthcare coverage for many part-time workers and raising the premiums for health plans in 2014.
Wal-Mart’s actions likely come from a place of fear that its top spot is in danger. It’s anxious to revitalize the business that has shown possible signs of slipping.
If the company had executed these actions with any sort of grace, then it would have seemed marginally human. What Wal-Mart has instead indicated is how completely it regards its employees as disposable — almost as disposable as those local business owners who suffered from those now-closing stores being established in the first place.