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In Blow to Khaki Industry, Walmart Says 1.5 Million Employees Can Wear Jeans

It's fair to note that the new company dress code is just a test and might not take hold.


A collared blue or white shirt and a pair of khaki pants. Walk into any Walmart store, and that’s what most of the employees will be wearing, along with a handsome navy vest. It’s been the Walmart employee uniform for the past few years, and it was implemented so that customers knew who actually worked there and didn’t ask one another for help in the hardware section.

In what could be a devasting blow to cotton Dockers, however, the Arkansas-based retailer announced a new uniform policy that allows employees in select stores to wear solid blue jeans instead of the classic tan trousers. They can also now wear any color shirt, rather than just blue or white.

The updated dress code is part of an ongoing effort at employee retention and is designed to create a more easy going atmosphere. Walmart is still suffering from a worker shortage and in 2015 had a turnover rate for hourly employees of about 44 percent in 2015. That’s a staggeringly high figure when compared to competitors like Costco, which pays its workers higher wages and has an employee turnover rate of only about 6 percent annually.

According to Bloomberg, many of Walmart’s employees are pretty excited about the change. Others, however, remain skeptical as the new dress code is still only in a ‘testing phase’ in about two dozen of the company’s 4,700 locations. Management could easily decide to stay the well-worn course with khakis.

“We are always testing new ideas and concepts in a small number of our stores,” said company spokesman Kory Lundberg. “Some of these tests are expanded while others are retired. We won’t know next steps on this test until we’ve had a chance to learn what works and what could work better.”

Should the changes take hold, though, it would have a huge effect on the more than 1.4 million people who work at Walmart in the United States, not to mention on the companies that peddle khaki pants. Though the company recently raised its starting wage from $9 an hour to $11 and expanded a bevy of employee benefits, even with a new dress code, they might still have a hard time retaining employees in this economy. Especially when the unemployment rate sits at a historically low 4.1 percent and other popular retailers like Trader Joes are starting workers off at $15 an hour. Then again, who knows, a lot of people hate tan pants. Maybe jettisoning khakis from the uniform is exactly what the company needs to do to help keep employees happy.