Walmart changed the way it buys shopping bags and saved $60 million—and that's just one way it cut costs

Key Points
  • Walmart is making small changes in stores to save money.
  • The retailer said it will save $60 million annually by changing how it buys shopping bags.
  • It is making workers' vests out of recyclable materials, cutting costs by 15%, it said.
Bloomberg | Getty

Because of its scale as the world's biggest retailer, Walmart can save millions of dollars by making even the slightest tweaks to how it runs its business.

It will save $60 million annually by changing its process for buying shopping bags, CFO Brett Biggs said Tuesday, during a meeting with investors in New York.

It is also cutting the cost of the vests its workers wear by 15% by making them out of recyclable materials, he said.

Here's why retail expert Jan Kniffen says Walmart 'gets a pass' for 4th quarter

And Walmart is on track to save $100 million annually by centralizing how it maintains the equipment in its stores to be more energy efficient, according to Biggs.

"You can take a lot of small projects. ... You can scale them across the business, and they can lead to impressive savings," the CFO explained. "We are bending the curve on expenses."

Walmart had said at its 2019 annual shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, that it would save at least $30 million for the year by swapping out existing stepping stools in its distribution centers with a lighter-weight version.

It had also previously said it was saving $200 million by changing the light bulbs in its stores and parking lots, and saving $20 million by using a new new floor wax.

That all adds up.

The company also said Tuesday that its "Fast Unloader" technology, which scans and sorts packages as they come off trucks and is in more than 1,700 Walmart stores today, shaves about a third of the time off the truck unloading process when it requires 100% human labor.

Biggs' comments come on the heels of Walmart reporting fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that missed analysts' estimates, hurt by weak sales of holiday toys and apparel.

Walmart shares were last up about 1%. The stock has climbed a little more than 19% over the past 12 months. Walmart has a market cap of about $338.4 billion.

Read the full earnings press release from Walmart.

Watch CNBC's full interview with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon on fourth-quarter earnings