Walmart to offer rent relief to shops within its stores and ease financing for suppliers

Small Business

A customer pays for her groceries after shopping at a Walmart store ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago.

Kamil Krzaczynski | Reuters

Walmart said Wednesday it is offering help to its small business partners as the coronavirus forces consumers to self-isolate and companies to shut stores.

More than 10,000 businesses operate within Walmart Supercenters and Sam’s Clubs, including hair and nail salons, optometrists, restaurant franchises, veterinary clinics and local and regional banks. Walmart is waiving rent for all of these property partners for the month of April.

“It’s our hope that this rent relief will help these businesses financially weather the current situation and take care of their employees,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll continue to monitor the need for additional support past April. We’re also working with many of our partners to encourage their impacted employees to apply for the 150,000 temporary jobs we plan to fill in the coming months.”

In addition, Walmart is making changes to its supply-chain financing program to help qualified suppliers get payments faster. The retailer is adding dedicated resources to speed up its onboarding process and eliminate an eligibility requirement and has added a third banking partner JPMorgan Chase. Citibank and Wells Fargo were already partners.

“More than two-thirds of our 18,000 suppliers are small and medium sized businesses who could benefit from this newly enhanced program,” the company said.

Walmart has already pledged to pay nearly $550 million in bonuses to hourly employees — including special bonuses to reward its workforce for keeping shelves stocked as customers flock to stores.

In an interview on “Squawk Box” last week, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs Dan Bartlett said the bonuses will reward employees for “performing Herculean efforts” and put money into their pockets.

“It’s almost like a mini stimulus package for Walmart associates,” he said. 

Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer, with more than 1.3 million workers among its more than 2.1 million global workforce.

The number will get even larger in the coming months. Walmart announced plans last week to hire 150,000 associates through the end of May to work in stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers to keep up with heightened demand. The jobs will be temporary, but the company said many will become permanent over time. 

The company has seen a boost in sales as people buy food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other items as they prepare to stay at home amid the pandemic

The retailer has also said it will set up coronavirus testing in its parking lots.

— CNBC’s Melissa Repko contributed to this report

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