Why Retail Leaders Like Walmart CEO Doug McMillon Want the Stimulus Deal Done Now

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is urging congressional leaders to pass a stimulus package that could help provide much-needed financial aid to individuals, families and businesses as the coronavirus pandemic maintains its grip on the United States.

In an interview on Thursday, the big-box chain’s chief executive called on deadlocked lawmakers from both parties — counting top negotiators Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — to work out a deal as they face persistent disagreements on its specific provisions and overall cost.

“For both sides, I think what they need to keep in mind is that there are Americans that need them that don’t really care about politics, aren’t really tied up in this election, and they just need some help,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Doing nothing is not the first and best option.”

The House and the Senate have been unable thus far to settle on the terms of a measure that would include loans for small companies, enhanced unemployment benefits and relief for cash-strapped states. While Democrats passed two weeks ago a $2.2 trillion bill, Republicans countered the proposal with a separate legislation worth $1.6 trillion.

Over the past few months, as many firms across the country shed workers, Walmart has ramped up hiring in an effort to keep up with COVID-19-related demand for essential goods as well as a surge in online orders. (In September, it announced plans to employ 20,000 people for seasonal jobs at its e-commerce fulfillment centers across the U.S. during the holiday season.) For the second quarter, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.56, handily topping analysts’ expectations of earnings of $1.25 per share, while revenues advanced 5.6% to $137.7 billion, versus Wall Street’s bets of $135.37 billion. Its e-commerce sales spiked a whopping 97%.

Other retail leaders — eyeing their own compromised balance sheets amid dampened consumer sentiment and reduced store traffic — have also expressed the need for another stimulus from the government, which could help drive consumers back to stores as well as boost holiday spending. Just last week, the National Retail Federation balked at President Donald Trump’s instruction to halt discussions for a second bill. (The U.S. leader has since backtracked the call.) It also pushed Congress to expand the Paycheck Protection Program, offer tax credits for the cost of personal protective equipment and provide protection against lawsuits for businesses that follow safety guidelines set by public health agencies.

“The pandemic isn’t over and neither is the economic crisis it has created,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said last Tuesday. “There are many families still struggling to make ends meet and businesses facing obstacles to putting workers back on the payroll… And we need further stimulus to ensure we can fix an ailing economy, bring people back to work and spur growth in communities large and small.”

Fashion and footwear trade groups echoed the same sentiment — particularly with the holiday shopping season on the horizon. The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America president and CEO Matt Priest said last week that the government should “compromise on behalf of the American people,” while the American Apparel and Footwear Association president and CEO Steve Lamar remarked that “now is the time to deploy all the tools in our toolbox.”

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