Putting its best foot forward to stimulate the U.S. economy, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) said on Tuesday that it will hire 100,000 new veterans in the next five years and buy an additional $50 billion in products made in the U.S.A. over the next decade. The commitments were announced by Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon at the National Retail Federation’s annual BIG Show in New York.
The new initiatives of the nations largest retailer and private employer should stem some of the criticisms that the company sells too many products manufactured overseas and treats its employees unfairly. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart contests that about 66 percent of the goods it currently buys to sell at its U.S. stores are derived domestically.
Through its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, the company plans to boost U.S. manufacturing by buying more products in categories like sporting goods, apparel basics and paper products. It also intends to help onshore production through greater domestic purchases in areas like textiles, furniture and high-end appliances.
To spearhead efforts to achieve the goal, Walmart created a senior team within the company and will sign longer term purchase agreements to give suppliers more certainty. Michelle Gloeckler, senior vice president in the home business, will lead the team with Greg Hall, a vice president of Walmart.com, assigned as a vice president reporting to Gloeckler.
The new veteran hiring plan goes into effect on Memorial Day and will include any honorably discharged veteran in his or her first 12 months off active duty receiving a job upon request.
“Hiring a veteran can be one of the best business decisions you make,” said Simon in today’s corporate statement. “Veterans have a record of performance under pressure. They’re quick learners and team players. They are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever.”
The company believes it is already the largest employer of veterans in the country, but says it wants to add more.
Washington is on-board with the idea. According to today’s news, the White House will convene the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and major American employers in the coming weeks to encourage businesses to make significant commitments to train and employ America’s returning heroes.
“This is exactly the kind of act we hoped would be possible when we started Joining Forces – a concrete example of our nation’s love and support that our troops, veterans, and their families can feel in their lives every day,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.
Walmart currently employs more than 2.2 million people (including about 1.4 million in the U.S.) across 10,400 stores worldwide. In fiscal 2012, which ended February 29, 2012, the retail giant rang-up about $444 billion in sales.
The news isn’t doing much for the stock in Tuesday morning trading. Shares are flat at $68.28 about one hour after the opening bell. In the past 52 weeks, shares have appreciated by about 15 percent. In October shares hit an all-time high of $77.17.