The world’s largest company became an irreplaceable community resource as the COVID crisis engulfed the U.S. The retail giant offers drive-by pickup of online orders, an arena that Walmart pioneered, at about 3,300 of its 4,750 U.S. stores. The number of such orders more than quadrupled from mid-March through July, as consumers—particularly those over 50—scrambled for contactless shopping options. The surge sparked a need for new staff to fill curbside orders, and Walmart hired nearly 500,000 additional workers at the peak of the spring’s lockdowns—in part by partnering with the National Restaurant Association to recruit workers displaced from that battered industry.
A strong pickup business can also have environmental benefits: A recent study by Bain estimates that pickup purchases generate 75% fewer CO2 emissions per item than purchases ordered online and delivered by mail.
Walmart also acted fast to help customers access relief payments quickly and cheaply. People processed $434 million worth of stimulus checks via direct deposit to its MoneyCard prepaid debit cards; the company waived maintenance fees on the cards and began for the first time to pay interest on unspent balances. Walmart’s pandemic response went hand in hand with powerful financial performance: It has tallied two quarters of comparable-store sales growth near 10% and a near-doubling of e-commerce. It’s also earning rising scores on reputation surveys—and is making its sixth consecutive appearance on this list.