Wal-Mart 'urgent' memo urges improvement at U.S. stores: NYT

Customers are seen at a Wal-Mart market in Miami, Florida May18, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (Reuters)

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart stores Inc issued an "urgent agenda" memo to its store managers across the United States last month, laying out guidelines to boost sales of "chilled and fresh" food, the New York Times reported. The memo, marked "highly sensitive", asks Wal-Mart marketing managers to make sure they discount aging meat and baked goods to maximize chances of selling them before their expiration dates, according to the report. (http://nyti.ms/1v1YwHO) Wal-Mart, which has posted six straight quarters of flat or declining same-store sales growth, has been battling a stronger dollar and a reduction in U.S. food stamp benefits, which has eaten into the budget of the retailer's core customer base. The Times said the memo calls for comprehensive markdowns across 32 departments, asks stores to find creative ways to sell clearance items and to keep "complete records of daily throws" of meat and poultry. Walmart spokeswoman Deisha Barnett confirmed the memo's existence. "Our CEO has been vocal about our need to improve in this (fresh foods) category. We know it's very important to our customer and ... to us as the largest grocer in the U.S.," she told Reuters. The memo, which the Times said was leaked for public use by a Wal-Mart manager unhappy about understaffing, urges managers to reduce inventory and warns them not to exceed budgets. For meat departments, the report cited the memo as saying markdowns should start at 7 a.m. and be executed multiple times daily. The memo also advises stores to be sure to "rotate" dairy products and eggs, which means removing expired items and adding new stock at the bottom and back of display cases, the Times said. (Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar and Nayan Das in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Simon Jennings)