(WMT) Walmart Stores Announces Women-Centered Programs

Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world’s leading grocery retailer, has a basket of plans aimed at women across the globe for next five years. The company has announced plans to invest in goods and services from U.S. businesses owned by women and would also train women workers across the globe to boost their productivity.

Walmart plans to spend $20 billion in products from women-owned businesses in the United States. It averages $4 billion per year, versus $2.5 billion it currently spends. The company plans to double the merchandise it buys from women-owned businesses globally by 2016.

The program also plans to train 60,000 women factory workers, supplying products to Walmart and other merchants. Additionally, the company will provide training on life skills, which range from punctuality to financial literacy,  to 200,000 low-income women in the U.S. and another 200,000 women overseas.

Walmart Sheds Gender-Bias Allegation

This initiative is surely an attempt to free itself from the gender-bias allegations, as the move comes at a time when the company is having to deal with claims that it prefers male workers over females.

The case was filed in 2001 on behalf of Walmart employee Betty Dukes and five of her co-workers, who claimed they had been passed over for promotions and were paid less than male co-workers.

A lower US court ruled that the case could go to trial, but Walmart appealed to the Supreme Court. The retailer scored a major victory when the Supreme Court blocked the lawsuit, saying there was no convincing proof of company-wide pay or promotion discrimination at Wal-Mart.

Past Initiatives for Women

The retail giant is increasing its focus on serving women. In 2009, it had set up a women’s council that comprised 20 female company leaders worldwide who would offer guidance ranging from training and development to promotions. Again, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere USA (CARE) started working with Walmart in 2009 in Bangladesh, India and other areas.

CARE is a broad-spectrum secular relief, humanitarian, and development non-governmental organization fighting global poverty. It is non-political, non-sectarian and operates in more than 70 countries across the globe. In India, ‘Care USA’ helped cashew farmers increase their yield and taught them how to sell their products to Walmart.

Acquisition

Walmart also has become more tech savvy as its technology unit has acquired start-up OneRiot. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, OneRiot originally started out as a real-time search engine but later switched to using its technology for mobile and social advertising. The group is set to build a team of people who will develop a variety of shopping and retail-related applications.

Our Take

We remain encouraged by the significant presence of Walmart in the international market, its customer loyalty and strong balance sheet. However, stiff competition from Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST) and Target Corp. (TGT) is a challenge for the company.

Currently, we maintain a ‘Neutral’ rating on the stock.  Further, Walmart holds a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term ‘Hold’ rating.

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