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Seiyu Eyes Wal-Mart ‘Efficiency’ Model

TOKYO — In a series of moves that could have long-term ramifications for its employees’ job security, Seiyu Ltd. is beginning to adopt Wal-Mart Stores’ penchant for efficiency.<br><br>Seiyu, the Japanese supermarket and general...

TOKYO — In a series of moves that could have long-term ramifications for its employees’ job security, Seiyu Ltd. is beginning to adopt Wal-Mart Stores’ penchant for efficiency.

Seiyu, the Japanese supermarket and general merchandise chain in which Wal-Mart carries a 37 percent stake, said last week it was “studying” a new personnel policy, although “nothing is definitive at this time.” It didn’t comment on press reports here that said the new policy could result in workforce reductions of up to 40 percent over a three-year period. A Wal-Mart spokesman referred to discussion of job cuts as “premature.”

The firm said it’s studying a personnel policy based on “the right man in the right place,” “development of ability” and “wages based on results,” while at the same time structuring a new format of store organization.

Seiyu added that its management policy stresses the “human” element and the vitalization of human resources as an important management issue.

The retailer is also set to begin implementing Wal-Mart’s Retail Link computer supply-chain management system, which connects stores to worldwide suppliers in real time.

The Wal-Mart spokesman, reached at the company’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters, noted: “We are going to be introducing not only our systems [into Seiyu], but lots of other Wal-Mart processes. We expect to have Retail Link installed as sort of a pilot probably in August or September, but it will probably be next year before it’s fully implemented.”

There is no linkage, he said, between the installation of computer systems at the Japanese firm and job cuts.

“Wal-Mart is a company that seeks to find efficiency at every point that it can and certainly we’re trying to do that at Seiyu,” said the spokesman. “Some of the computer systems that we use can enhance efficiencies at Seiyu. We also believe we should have people working at Seiyu who are doing the appropriate jobs and that we have an appropriately sized workforce.

“I think it’s premature to say that we are going to be cutting a lot of jobs at this point,” he noted.

Wal-Mart acquired its initial 6.1 percent stake in Seiyu in May 2002. Seiyu operates about 214 doors and pulled in sales of roughly $6.53 billion last year.