A shopper wears a mask while shopping at a Walmart store in North Brunswick, New Jersey on July 20, 2020.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
In some Walmart stores, robots have roamed the sales floors and helped check that the shelves were full. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the big box retailer has now decided to end its contract with the robotics company behind these machines after discovering that humans can do roughly the same job.
The report, which named unnamed people familiar with the situation, said Walmart recently cut ties with Bossa Nova Robotics. A Walmart spokesperson told the Journal that there were about 500 robots in Walmart's more than 4,700 stores at the end of the contract.
Walmart saw significant growth during the coronavirus pandemic as Americans buy toilet paper, canned food, puzzles, and more. The company's online sales nearly doubled in the second quarter as consumers mailed purchases to their homes and picked them up on the side of the road. This poses a new challenge for the big box retailer: they quickly replenish the shelves and make sure they have the right inventory.
In a recent interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, said that sporadic stock shortages continue to be a problem. He said if there was one thing he could change about Walmart's business it would be "even more inventory."
According to the journal's report, Walmart has developed simple and inexpensive ways to use its staff to manage the products on its shelves, rather than using the robots. The report said John Furner, US chief executive at Walmart, was also concerned about shoppers' reactions to the robots.
However, Walmart is pushing other technology-based experiments. Last week the retailer announced it was converting four stores into e-commerce labs, testing digital tools and various strategies to expedite shelf replenishment and fulfillment of online orders.
Read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.