WAL-MART WEB SITE DOWNSIZES

Byline: Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — Walmart.com said Wednesday it laid off 24 people, or roughly 10 percent of its workforce, on Tuesday and now plans to discontinue carrying some of its lowest-priced cosmetics and apparel.
In confirming rumors that circulated Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the Brisbane, Calif.-based e-tailer noted the layoffs were made mostly in marketing and merchandising positions. She characterized the move as part of an effort to build infrastructure and improve functionality at the e-commerce site, which has struggled to find firm ground in cyberspace since its launch in 1996.
We see this simply as responsible business,” the spokeswoman said. “If you’re running a business in a smart way, you’ve got to be efficient and nimble with your resources.” Further, the spokeswoman revealed Walmart.com aims to hire 52 people within the next few months, mostly in operations such as Web site design, engineering and product management.
Currently, Walmart.com carries some 500,000 stockkeeping units on the site — from silky nighties to drill bits — making the development of an efficient search engine paramount. Indeed, in a statement issued Wednesday, Jeanne Jackson, chief executive officer of the dot-com, noted that Walmart.com is being “very careful not to spend in this environment on categories and ideas that aren’t working.”
The spokeswoman emphasized that the company is still analyzing its holiday sales data and has not made final decisions on which specific items would be eliminated from the online offering. Likely candidates would be items $10 and under such as anklet socks or a bottle of Oil of Olay foaming face wash, which both sell for less than $4 a piece — but whose delivery costs range from $3.25 for ground shipping to $15.25 for overnight treatment.
It’s a second pruning for the e-tailer, which has already eliminated low-cost items such as ballpoint pens that cost far less than the associated shipping and handling charges. The spokeswoman said the Web site saw solid holiday results in some big-ticket categories, like electronics, and is working to promote them.
Both the planned inventory cutbacks and layoffs signal that the e-tailer is still struggling to make its massive Web site click. The four-and-a-half-year-old Internet site was shut down last October for a monthlong overhaul after replacing its technology platform in July with assets acquired from the defunct HomeWareHouse.com, including members of the former Web site’s engineering and design teams.
Asked about rumors that Jackson herself has had enough and is looking for a new job, the spokeswoman said: “Jeanne and the rest of the management team is absolutely committed to the company and the company’s vision.”