Yes, Walmart Store Managers Really Can Make $500,000 a Year


After working as a Walmart store manager in the Dallas area for more than a decade, Greg Harden has seen it all. Walmart Inc.’s procedures for managing schedules for hundreds of store associates, keeping track of delivery vehicle arrivals, and even operating gasoline pumps for customers had all become second nature. But earlier this year he got some news about Walmart that took his breath away. The retailer redesigned its compensation scheme in a way that would significantly increase store manager pay with stock grants and bonuses. With the changes, Harden could make as much as $530,000 this year. “I almost fainted when I found out,” he says.

The world’s largest retailer is rethinking one of its most important roles after falling behind the competition. A couple of years ago, Walmart’s attrition rate for store managers spiked to almost double that of other big-box retailers such as Home Depot Inc. and Target Corp., according to data from human resources analytics company Revelio Labs Inc. Departures first ticked up when Walmart cut management ranks in the late 2010s, saddling those who remained with more work and longer hours, according to two former managers who declined to be named. At the time, the company was more focused on improving conditions for its hourly workers, investing billions in upgrading their wages.

From there, the manager attrition gap between Walmart and its competitors widened as the pandemic brought new challenges and obsolete technology made the job onerous and clunky. When Vanessa Bennett started as a manager at a Walmart in Grand Rapids, Michigan, two years ago, she says she used an old computer with outdated software for scheduling shifts. “It was absolutely awful,” she says of the technology. Manager Oscar Romero says his day began with 40 minutes of paperwork. “I’d have to go through reports to look at my sales. If I wanted to look at inventory, I’d have to go to another report,” says Romero, who oversees about 550 people at a Walmart in Calexico, California, near the Mexico border.

Souped-up compensation is just the most recent in a string of changes made to improve managers’ work lives. New technology has cut down on hours of busy work, and new benefits include telehealth and doula services. The initiatives have helped boost retention and lowered turnover rates in the last year, says Cedric Clark, Walmart’s executive vice president of store operations. Engagement scores that measure how managers feel about their jobs have also risen, he says.

Annual Attrition Rate for Managers

Source: Revelio Labs

The company declined to share exact figures for either metric, but according to Revelio’s data, Walmart’s annual attrition rate has fallen by about 2 percentage points in the last year to about 21%. Managers say they see a difference. “It’s been night and day,” Harden says.

Walmart made one of the most significant changes for managers in years in January when it announced it would significantly boost their pay. They’ll now receive annual stock grants of as much as $20,000. Average base salaries for store managers were raised to $128,000 a year, from $117,000. The retailer also changed the way it calculates those managers’ bonuses: It will continue to evaluate sales, of course, but the profit generated by a manager’s store will play a bigger role going forward. “If you hit all targets, your bonus could now be up to 200% of your base salary,” according to a note to managers from Clark. So a successful manager of a high-performing store can now pass the $500,000 mark.

Running a Walmart is more complex than most retail jobs, says Jin Yan, a senior economist at Revelio. The retailer’s Supercenters, which average 178,000 square feet, tend to be between 30,000 square feet and 50,000 square feet larger than a Costco or Target, and they offer more services, including auto body shops and pharmacies. Many have mini-warehouses in the back that move hundreds of pallets of products every day. And the sheer volume of sales is enormous. One Walmart manager estimates he sells a truckload of dog food a day.

Harden currently oversees 400-plus employees and more than $100 million in sales at one of the biggest stores in the Dallas region, in Grand Prairie, Texas. By 7 a.m. he’s at the store getting feedback from overnight staff and checking the grocery section. Throughout the day, he makes sure aisles are full, price tags are visible and truck deliveries are on time. By the end of his 10-hour shift, he’s walked as many as 6 miles and talked to about 200 people. Before recent changes, his days were even longer. “I worked 5 a.m. religiously, probably six days a week,” he says.

The burnout risk is high: One manager told Bloomberg Businessweek he left recently for a less intense job. The pay at Walmart didn’t make the stress and long hours on his feet worth it.

Attrition is expensive for any company. For Walmart, it comes with its own set of problems. Because the retailer tends to hire from within—about 75% of its field management team began their careers as hourly employees—Revelio’s Yan says that when managers leave, they take many years of institutional knowledge with them. Managers say the job is like being the chief executive officer of a small business mixed with a local politician. When one departs, it also means losing a community leader. “I think you can run for mayor if you’re a Walmart store manager,” Romero says.

When a series of open mic listening tours revealed frustrations that managers have with their heavy workload, the company 2021 rolled out the Me@Walmart app that it built, which allows managers to track sales, inventory, staff schedules, and more, saving them time. Every employee who works at a Walmart store gets a phone with it installed.

Since then, the retailer has added more features on the mobile devices. Its VizPick app scans hard-to-reach top shelves and flags whether specific products are available, running low, or out of stock. A profit-and-loss app breaks down sales, profits, and other important metrics that were often handwritten before. Over time, the company wants to bring various functions to the Me@Walmart app.

Romero, the manager in California, checks the app first thing in the morning. Throughout the day, he uses his device to take photos of things to fix and to make to-do lists for his staff. “I can pull out my app and it will tell me sales for the day, how many trucks am I getting in, whose birthday it is,” he says.

Ultimately, improving managers’ work life is meant to boost store sales, says Clark, Walmart’s store operations chief. “If we make it the best place to work, they in turn take care of the customer.”

Walmart's business has been booming since the pandemic, even as some competitors have started to struggle. Sales have grown about 30% for its US business over the past four years, as the retailer wins over inflation-weary consumers of all income levels with its discounts and low prices. It plans to open new Supercenters for the first time in roughly two years.

Because compensation changes are now tied more closely to store performance, managers say they’re more motivated to improve sales. “I’m in control,” says Mustafa Tovi, who oversees a Walmart in Dallas. “I’m focused on growing the business and controlling profit.”

Although most merchandising is handled out of headquarters, managers have some say in what they stock and can be creative with how they drive sales—a holdover from when founder Sam Walton scoured the country for items to sell in the earliest Walmart stores.

One year, Romero decided to stock up on Mattel Inc.’s Hot Wheels model cars. He put up displays throughout his store, appealing to collectors and other fans. He sold more than any of the 4,600 other stores in the country. Walmart sent him a trophy for the occasion that he keeps in his office.

His latest gambit is putting plastic pools in pet aisles. After quickly selling out last summer, he reached out to the merchandising team about ordering more for this year.

“This year I said, ‘You know what? We need to get more pools,’” Romero says.

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