Amazon Goes Big, Walmart Keeps Calm During Coronavirus Outbreak

2 min read
Mar 17, 2020
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Amazon announced yesterday that they plan on hiring 100,000 additional workers to deliver "critical supplies directly to the doorsteps of people who need them." The positions will be full- and part-time in the US. They also announced hourly pay raises of two dollars, pounds, and euros for workers across the US, Canada, and Europe.

The announcement makes specific reference to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 virus. The retail giant is expecting an increase in demand. It also mentioned the possibility of lost jobs in other sectors, such as "hospitality, restaurants, and travel," and welcomed them to find a position with Amazon.

For comparison, the entire US economy added 273,000 jobs last month. Amazon already employs somewhere around 800,000 people worldwide.

This is the latest in a series of big announcements by Amazon in response to the coronavirus outbreak. They established a $25 million relief fund for their "delivery partners" on March 11. Just a day before that, they made $5 million available to small businesses in the Seattle area affected by COVID-19.

Amazon’s public relations strategy couldn’t be more different than that of its largest retail competitor, Walmart. Instead of large numbers and dramatic announcements, Walmart has emphasized stability. Walmart has made similar moves, such as offering more generous sick leave policies, but has otherwise focused on how its stores will remain open, clean, and fully stocked. Walmart employs 2.2 million people worldwide. Already the largest employer in the US, it hasn’t announced increased hiring or any dramatic changes in how it will do business.

Both Amazon and Walmart stock prices have fallen around 5% in the past month. Given the current market conditions, those are good results. Despite rumors of large supply chain problems for both, mostly concerning products coming from China, shortages haven’t dramatically affected the bottom line. 

It remains to be seen if Amazon’s prediction of increased demand will come true. This will also depend on how long drastic social-distancing measures stay in place, which is hard to estimate in the US, where most decisions of this kind are made by individual states and counties. Walmart is also well placed to benefit from such measures, however. Its online order pickup service is already popular and sure to please consumers looking to buy essentials with minimal physical interaction. 

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