According to a report in this morning’s New York Times, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Bentonville, Ark.) is testing a new look for its 1.3 million workers in the United States: khaki pants and a navy blue polo shirt, according to employees briefed on the clothing plans.
The uniform would replace the decades-old blue smock or vest that has been required dress for Wal-Mart employees.
The blue polo and khaki test, now being conducted in about 100 stores, may extend across the chain as early as November, depending on the response of employees and customers, John Simley, a company spokesman, confirmed to The Times.
Wal-Mart began testing the polo and khaki outfit a year ago at a handful of stores and has since introduced the look at every store the chain has opened since early September.
Company executives, who said they had not yet planned on disclosing the test, played down the experimental uniform. But they conceded that the existing smocks and vests emblazoned with the words “How may I help you?” are unlikely to survive much longer.
“The look could still change,” Simley said of the polos and khakis. “We are still in the process of testing this dress code and evaluating how or whether to roll it out to additional stores.”
The Times reported that the color of the polo shirt, in particular, may be modified — perhaps to avoid any confusion with the uniform at Best Buy Co. Inc. (Richfield, Minn.), which is also a blue polo shirt and khaki pants. Best Buy even refers to its employees as “blue shirts.”
Wal-Mart said it would supply each employee with two navy blue polo shirts (employees can substitute a dark blue dress shirt). The chain may eventually cover the cost of the khakis, too, but for now, workers must buy the pants, which retail for about $15 at Wal-Mart, on their own.
This is not the first time that Wal-Mart has altered its uniforms. Several years ago, the company replaced the phrase “Our People Make the Difference” on smocks with the question “How may I help you?” to reflect a growing emphasis on customer service. Simley said the new shirts bear no such language, but large name tags will continue to identify employees as Wal-Mart staff.