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How and why Walmart is thriving right now

[BUSINESS NEWS] Once again, Walmart shows their might as a one-stop shopping giant, even during the pandemic.

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girl looking at walmart home screen on laptop

Love it or hate it, Walmart is a formidable player in the U.S. retail sales game, and during the pandemic, their sales have continued to grow. Here’s how they did it and what other retailers can learn during the dark days of COVID-19 and beyond.

Walmart has always had the knack to appeal to a broad buyer base, with a seemingly bottomless well of inventory and bargain prices. Cheap and plentiful goods are part of the formula, along with options for ecommerce. In 2020, online shopping is where it’s at, due to safety concerns. Walmart has seen a massive increase in online sales–a 97% increase, in fact.

Staying home was a recommendation, then a mandate, and is now a recommendation once more. Infectious disease experts, doctors, and scientists agree that less interaction with people and fewer outings, coupled with vigilant mask-wearing in public and hand washing, will help keep us safe and prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19. For people of a certain age and/or with compromised immune systems whose risk of a COVID-19 case being fatal, it’s imperative.

People began to make fewer trips to fewer places in order to stay safe. Thus the rise in online shopping makes sense. Because they already had an online shopping system set up, Walmart easily transitioned to providing more online sales, where customers could choose to pickup their orders or have them delivered.

Being a modern day trading post of sorts, a one-stop shopping spot, also helped bolster Walmart’s sales during COVID-19. Why risk going to three or four different stores when Walmart has groceries, cooking and gardening supplies, games, electronics, jigsaw puzzles, plus bath and beauty goods? Not to mention the extra time it takes to disinfect all the packages when you get home; it makes more sense for most people to only stop at one place. This time saved by going to one store (in this case, Walmart) instead of driving around can also help save your sanity.

Affordability, availability, and familiarity are key pillars of the Walmart formula for success. Easy is the magic word. Cheap is another word with extra appeal to the millions of people in the U.S. who’ve lost their full or part time jobs or have seen their hours/clients reduced since the shutdowns began in March. Stretching a dollar is the in-demand skill we all need to cultivate now, and shopping at inexpensive stores like Walmart is one way to do this.

For these reasons, Walmart’s second quarter sales surged as people began receiving their stimulus checks. Now, as most people have already received and spent their stimulus money, Walmart’s sales are slightly falling off again, though they are still strong. Their business model is working for consumers who need convenience and affordability.

Another factor in Walmart’s 2020 success is their massive inventory of in-demand items. I’m not even talking about the water and TP hoarders. As Americans stayed home longer, people sought ways to entertain themselves, set up remote workplaces for the adults and study areas for children and college students. People needed to exercise and cook more. Even jigsaw puzzles were nearly impossible to find online or in stores by the time early May rolled around.

Walmart’s sales of electronics boomed during this period: TVs and computer sales skyrocketed early on. As quarantine remained the order of the day, more people cooked at home more often, and cooking supplies also kept moving off the Walmart shelves and out of the warehouses. Many started working on their yards and gardens, and Walmart once again was there to accommodate.

Cooking and yard items still remain popular as people are realizing that they will be continuing to spend more time at home. People brightened their days and fought off boredom and the heat with inflatable pools for them, their kids, and their pets, or maybe bought bread pans, a pressure cooker, or lawn chairs.

Like many massive corporations, Walmart has had its share of scrutiny. They have been a problematic presence for a long time. However, they have always been able to reach their audience with low prices and a wide range of available items. These same factors have helped push their sales during 2020, and will likely continue to do so, especially if the government decides on issuing a second stimulus check to aid U.S. workers.

 

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

Business News

This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.

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A small jar of cannabis on a desk with notebooks, sold online in a nicely made jar.

The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.

Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.

There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.

Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.

Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.

Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.

“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”

For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.

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Business News

Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?

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Woman in car working on engineering now allowed a flexible schedule for working from home.

The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.

As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.

And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.

Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.

How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.

“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”

Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.

Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

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