Wal-Mart says staff turnover down after hike in minimum pay

Other changes include relaxed dress code, company-run radio station

(Reuters) — Wal-Mart Stores has been losing fewer workers to turnover since it raised its minimum wage in April, the retailer's chief executive said on Friday, the first time it has reported a benefit of the new higher wages.

Wal-Mart increased its minimum pay to US$9 an hour for its U.S. staff in April, providing a raise for half a million workers, and promised to hike it again to US$10 an hour next year. The federal minimum is US$7.25, though some states impose higher minimums.

The move came against the backdrop of a tightening labour market, which has increased competition for workers. Rival retailers followed Wal-Mart in lifting pay, including Target and TJX Co, the operator of the Marshalls and T.J. Maxx chains.

"Our job applications are going up and we are seeing some relief in turnover," Wal-Mart's chief executive, Doug McMillon, told a media briefing after the company's annual shareholders' meeting on Friday.

He did not provide details, and Wal-Mart does not disclose figures on turnover.

McMillon said the company would look to raise wages in the future beyond next year's US$10 minimum rate to stay competitive in attracting and retaining workers. He did not provide a timeframe or other details.

"This won’t be the last jump," he said. "There will be other moves above that as we manage the overall portfolio."

Wal-Mart announced the pay hike in February as part of a US$1-billion investment in wages and training.

This week it announced it would also raise minimum wages for more than another 100,000 U.S. employees, including some department managers and deli workers.

It also said it would relax its dress code, adjust the temperatures in its stores and bring back a company-run radio station as part of measures aimed at improving conditions for its roughly one million U.S. hourly workers.

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