Heralding it as "The Checkout Promise," Walmart has pledged to keep every register open during peak shopping hours during the upcoming holiday selling period.
"Our customers told us they want to get out of the store quickly," said Duncan Mac Naughton, Walmart's chief merchandising officer, recently at the 2014 Walmart U.S. Holiday Meeting. "So what do we do? We're going to open more registers than ever before. Our customers who are shopping the most, we need to get them out of our stores faster. We call this 'The Checkout Promise.'"
The pledge pertains to every supercenter and larger-box general merchandise location. Every register is promised to be staffed on the weekends between Black Friday and Christmas as well as the final days leading up to Christmas. Concluded Mr. Mac Naughton, "It's what our customers want, it's what we're going to deliver."
The 29-second portion of Mr. Mac Naughton's speech pertaining to "The Checkout Promise" was posted as a video on the public relations section of Walmart's website.
The changes come as Walmart last week reported its seventh straight quarter of declining traffic in the U.S. In addition to price investments, Walmart officials said on its second-quarter conference call that the company had allocated additional associate hours to specific areas of the store, such as front end, deli, bakery, and overnight stocking to improve overall customer service.
Walmart has received more criticism lately for its inventory shortages that it vowed earlier this year to improve. But its reputation for checkouts has also been poor. In 2012, it linked its poor image among some shoppers partly to complaints about its long checkout times.
Part of the problem, however, is perception. Walmart's supercenters have around 30 registers, generally about half as many as rival Target and much fewer than a number of other competitors. Frustration appears to mount higher when shoppers see unstaffed registers. Several internet blog posts question why it's common to see only four or five registers open at a time.
"We feel good about price and having the top gifts of the season, so the next priority is about getting customers in and out of the stores quickly," Mr. Mac Naughton told Reuters. "Taking the possibility of waiting in long lines off the table will attract more people into stores."
How much of a benefit will Walmart receive from its "The Checkout Promise" pledge?