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Walmart tightens on-time, in-full requirements

New rules require 98% across-the-board compliance starting Tuesday

Entrance to Walmart (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Beginning this Tuesday, the financial stakes of shipping to Walmart Inc. (NYSE:WMT) will get appreciably higher.

Effective Sept. 15, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail behemoth will require its suppliers and their carriers to deliver all orders as Walmart required and by their “must-arrive-by” dates 98% of the time or be fined 3% of the cost of the goods. The adjustment was disclosed in a Sept. 1 Walmart memo, giving its massive supplier and carrier network just two weeks to adjust.

The change to the program, known in the retailing trade as “on-time, in-full” (OTIF), brings the two components into uniformity for the first time since Walmart launched it in mid-2017. Currently, 95% of all general merchandise orders must be filled exactly as Walmart wants it. For food and consumables, that figure is 97.5%. Talk Business & Politics, an Arkansas online publication that first reported the story, said OTIF compliance on the food and consumables segment has been well below Walmart’s requirements.

The same uniform standards will apply to the time-in-transit portion. For truckload carriers, Walmart currently sets an 87% on-time threshold for a “prepaid” transaction where the supplier sets the delivery terms and pays the freight charges. It imposes a 95% requirement for a “collect transaction,” where the retailer handles the shipping and absolves the shipper of any responsibility should an in-transit issue like a truck breakdown affect delivery schedules.

Less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers may face the most difficult adjustment. Their on-time requirements are currently set at 70%. 

Walmart initiated the program to push suppliers to improve their fulfillment execution. The retailer complained it was losing millions of dollars in sales because store shelves were not being restocked fast enough. Last year, Walmart raised the OTIF requirements on general merchandise and food and consumables orders. 

According to the Arkansas publication’s report, Walmart executives said in the memo that “we must improve product availability to help ensure that our customers can purchase the products they want, when they want, in-store and on-line. To deliver on this goal, orders need to be fulfilled accurately, on-time and in-full.”

The move comes as Walmart’s suppliers and carriers begin gearing up for what is expected to be an unprecedented peak season for e-commerce as the normal holiday frenzy converges with online activity as the COVID-19 pandemic restrains store buying. During the pandemic, all retailers have experienced more frequent and severe inventory shortages. Walmart granted suppliers a COVID-19 exemption from OTIF requirements at the peak of the outbreak, but that exemption expired Aug. 17, according to the Arkansas publication.

The new policy may also be a response to cost and execution pressure from the recent rollout of the Walmart+ program, which offers free same-day deliveries of more than 160,000 items, much of it grocery and general merchandise, for a $98 annual subscription fee, or a $12.95 monthly subscription. The new program is costly to implement, but Walmart views it as necessary to defend its online grocery market share from rivals like, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Target Corp. (NYSE:TGT), analysts said. Based on the Talk Business & Politics Report, Walmart has much work to do if it wants to improve its OTIF metrics in the grocery segment.

Amazon and Target’s OTIF compliance standards are similar to those in Walmart’s new policy.


  1. Joshua

    I once got to a Walmart Distribution Center just over 30 minutes early in Virginia. However, it took over 30 minutes to get into the main lot to the office because of how long the line was at the guard shack. By the time I was able to get to the check in window at the receiving office they said I was late. It was 15 minutes after the appt time when I finally got to the window. They didn’t consider you having “arrived” until you get to the recieving window. They took over 8 hrs to unload us. Totally bogus and I can definitely see them abusing this.

    1. Stephen Webster

      The same thing happened to me I was held as a witness to a accident by a state police officer got to my appointment 20 minutes ahead of appointment time 5 trucks ahead of me in line by time got processed and trailer dropped 7 drivers waiting at the receiver window only on person accepted the paperwork was over one hour after appointment time told me at that point to hook up to the trailer and made new appointment 2 days later did the rest of the deliveries and a extra 500 miles plus the shipper paid a missed appointment fee for 4 skid’s

  2. Chris

    I worked for a company that at many terminals near Wal locations that had trailer after trailer parked in the yard chock full of Wal merch. Wal had plenty of shipments ready to deliver that they refused for “late/missed” and NO appts. Now they just had the trailers as portable warehouses. Much of the merch was seasonal, excess products. The company is just plain abusive. IMO
    And I’d rather not accept a load that delivers to Wal. Just like a big Grocery chain. No thanks.

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.