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Walmart Losing $5 Billion Due to Unstocked Shelves, Denies Media Reports Saying They Have a Problem

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has a large problem and it’s not going away quickly.

Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon said the firm is not keeping shelves continually stocked.  As a result, Wal-Mart may be losing sales as customers go elsewhere for their shopping.

Adding to the missing merchandise problem is a corresponding decline in sales.

“We run out [of stock] quickly and the new stuff doesn’t come in,” said Simon, as noted in the minutes of a February 1 meeting of senior executives at the firm.

Executive vice president of general merchandise for Wal-Mart U.S., John Arden, has been assigned the job of solving the restocking problem, according to the minutes of the high-level meeting, reported by Bloomberg News.

But the restocking effort may not be easily accomplished.

For at least the past two years Wal-Mart has been attempting to replenish sold-out merchandise, and merchandise removed from shelves in a major program to reduce clutter.

Consultants were hired to monitor shelving for inventory availability, and in some instances, store greeters were recruited to replace missing merchandise

But Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said the published comments on restocking problems were, “…personal notes from one participant in the meeting and are not official company minutes.”

“There are a number of significant misrepresentations and misleading statements that do not accurately reflect the comments by Bill Simon or any other participant in the meeting,” said Tovar.

In 2012, commenting on the apparently continuing restocking problem, chief merchandising and marketing executive for Wal-Mart U.S., Duncan Mac Naughton, said Wal-Mart could increase annual sales by $5 billion if shelves were kept more stocked.

Forecasting earnings, Simon said that same store sales for the 13 weeks ending April 26, will be flat.  Comparable sales grew 1 percent in Q4.