I can't believe some of you are saying they should put together a bunch of awesome programmers and rewrite their platform from scratch.
Certainly that is an option. But rarely is it ever the correct one. Your new platform could be as riddled with bugs as the old one.
The truth is that finding good engineers is about knowing the right incentives. Retailers are losing the talent wars because they don't know how to compete. And while salary is one lever Target can fiddle with, it certainly isn't the only one.
Target needs to look at the right incentives for the people they want to hire. Is telecommuting an option? How about direct authority to approve changes? Or the chance to build your own team? These are the incentives that matter to engineers.
The problem is cutting through all the rhetoric in hiring. Target can say "we want to revolutionize the ecommerce industry" but do any engineers actually believe them? That's tough.
Debugging, instrumentation, refactoring and understanding "system integration" are going to be big skills in an environment like this. Making a whiz-bang social-media site on a clean slate is a valuable skill, but it's not what this problem needs solved.
Compensation can be non monetary as well. I telecommute a few days a week at my current position, and the hours are reasonable (important when you have a family!). My compensation is probably quite meager by Bay Area standards, but things are cheap in the Sacramento area.
And while salary is one lever Target can fiddle with, it certainly isn't the only one.
I would argue set high enough it is the only lever. Many that play the start up game do so because first and foremost, there is the chance to earn far more than they can at an organization like Target. Sure it's a long shot but, there is at least the chance, if large organizations started to cross that chasm. I believe that they would indeed start to attract talent. If one could become moderately wealthy working for Target then a lot of people would choose that option, sure it's not the fame and fortune of making it in a start up, but a road somewhere in the middle is a road I would imagine that many developers would be willing to travel.
That's not very realistic and they almost certainly don't have the money for it. Moreover, increasing salary nets diminishing returns for motivating people after a certain point, and if it sucks to work for you, then no matter how much you pay, people are going to get bored and frustrated and leave.
I would be hard pressed to believe that they do not have the money for it, while I was at Marriott I doubled our budget for salary and did not change head count. I raised salaries above market rate and used some of it for merit based bonuses. It was very effective in recruiting and retaining talent. It was not the only thing that I did, but money cannot be discounted as a motivating factor. I will cede to your point that it the place flat out sucks even an astronomical amount of money may not retain your talent. But I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are mediocre at worst.
I think that article is neglecting the posibility that Target (as an example) has the software engineers who are talented enough to fix the site.
But what they almost definitely have is buckets of management and procedures preventing them from fixing the site. The kind of person who is afraid to reboot the server because it hasn't been rebooted in 6 months. Or who says if we do anything then we might make it worse.
Also lets not forget micromanaging tech managers who's one or two years of development before they went into management (hey they figured out technology in one year unlike all those other saps) entitles them to force their stupid and disastrous ideas onto the engineering team.
Big box retail is currently built on an interchangeable parts model. Retailers keep costs down by making people replaceable, unfortunately at this point that model doesn't work well for tech. It's unlikely that this will change as that mindset is built into the culture of the organization and has done well for the industry in the last 30 years.
It's likely that retail will undergo another change such as when sears took over in the late 19th / early 20th century. Retailers arent going to lose the war they will simply be replaced by more nimble competitors who can properly leverage technology. Contrary to popular belief there are good developers outside of sv and some developers are motivated towards well paying 9 to 5 jobs instead of options and sodas.
The article also conveniently ignores the huge logistics infrastructure retailers have and focuses purely on websites, while the web is certainly important the reality of the situation is that currently retailers such as Walmart have huge competitive advantages due to its investment in logistics tech and infrastructure.
It's a terrible plan. Paying a bunch of rock star salaries just gets you a bunch of people that say they are rock stars. If you don't have any on staff, you don't actually know if they are or not (pg has an essay about exactly this).
History is filled with these kind of rock star failures.
Buying the company gets you a team that can verifiably build the product you want, because they already did. That kind of conservative risk management is worth a ton of cash in the real world.
You are correct that paying market salaries for competent engineers does not ensure competent engineers.
However it must be noted that not paying market salaries for competent engineers definitely ensures that one employes substandard talent. The market is working well right now and competent engineers have no problem receiving market rate. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why competent engineers will not find a job paying the market rate for their talent, and that is exactly what happens. As for the companies that can not pay market rate, well they are simply not competitive and will fail. That's how the free market works and it is a very good thing.
Any company that requires being competitive in the tech domain needs to be willing to pay for key talent. Companies like Target definitely need to do everything they can. Arguments that incompetent developers are good enough are absurd. Obviously what they have now is not working.
Building a site that can handle a nationwide retailer the size of Target, second only to WalMart in brick and mortar stores, is completely non-trivial. The top 2 engineers there need to be paid at least $1.5 million annual salary. Sorry. I know many companies don't like this but there it is. Now obviously there are many levels below this, but this requires a pretty large development team and several below this level are going to be getting $200k-$400k. At the bottom, the losers that are just out of college and don't know anything, those guys are going to be making $75k to start. Because that's the starting salary. Companies don't want to hear this. Only the fatuous useless ignorant executives that have run the company into the ground should be paid these salaries, in their opinion. Well, they can keep thinking that and see where it gets them. Many will lobby Congress, that is a popular tactic. Pay a lobbying firm $25 million and maybe you'll be able to flood the market with cheap engineers from overseas who are willing to work for $21 an hour, and are able to do the same things that any other $21 an hour retail employee can do. Because the overseas guys that really know their stuff are not looking for $21 jobs, they are making the same salary as everyone else with their skill level. Because that's how the market works.
$200 K might not sound like much in Silicon Valley (although I suspect it's a good deal more than FaceBook and Google are paying people who don't have PhDs or IPOs), but it's quite a bit more than I've ever seen out here in the Sacramento area (and one can find a house for a family in a safe neighborhood for less than $500 K instead of over $1000 K).
The number was just a straw man to get the discussion going. Find some value that attracts talent, perhaps between my wild guess and your numbers.
Sorry but in what world do you live in? Whatever world it is I'd like to join because I've never heard of engineers making 1.5 million in salary. I think if you look on Glassdoor you'll realize 200k is a very high salary for an engineer at any company in SV.
(Also as a reference a Sr. Architect at Walmart.com according to Glassdoor makes 120-130k)
I am getting ready to put together an article on this subject, it is actually pretty easy to identify a key developer and recruit them, it is just that most companies hiring practices are the antithesis to identifying that developer.
Or maybe offer a percentage of the online sales revenue, after returns (and avoiding hollywood math).
I've interviewed with several "luxury" retailers within the past year, and my idiot-rejection-filter was usually triggered soon after the beginning of the interview.
It was usually due to the perception of inmates running asylum, or a legacy technology I didn't want anywhere near my resume (VB). Either way, lack of technological leadership, planning, and execution was easy to spot with a phone call or visit to a store.
Consultant for a big box retailer here. Yes, of course I can build a shopping cart site with a few good hackers, and I can find a few good hackers anywhere.
But that's not what I have. I have a pile of legacy crud that has to integrate with ten other piles of legacy crud, not to mention the external crud with which I must integrate.
And did I mention that during holiday the site gets a little more traffic than most sites? Or that the site makes a few hundred million dollars, and can't just be rewritten on a whim? To solve these sorts of problems, I don't need ten good hackers, I need more like 50. Or more. And that's the challenge the article is talking about. Because good hackers have options like Facebook - or their own startups - where they don't have to deal with that kind of noise.
It's a serious challenge for any big company which relies heavily on the web, which in 2012 is every big company.
"Or that the site makes a few hundred million dollars, and can't just be rewritten on a whim?"
Why not? If the site is unstable and can't stay up, you can either throw 50 programmers at it and still have it crash regularly or you can take far fewer and re-write it from scratch.
You're right about programmers not liking the cruft, but we also don't like most of the management processes that occur in large companies. I don't know if things have changed, but back when I worked for a large brake corporation, web programmers were devalued and distrusted. All of our decisions had to be signed off (in triplicate!) by a manager who didn't know how to program or the implications of the decisions being made.
To give you on example, one of the official company-wide policies was that if you wanted to transfer files between company offices over the internet, you had to use FTP for "security purposes." We were technically not allowed to use SSH or SFTP because, when I asked, my boss said nobody had heard of it. This was in 2006.
Rewriting a major ecommerce site in parallel with maintaining the current one, while ensuring that all functionality stays exactly the same, that all cross-pollination between systems stays exactly the same... you make it sound like it would be easy.
The stakes would be incredibly high, you would need extremely skilled, experienced and passionate engineers and a management environment that would give them enough breathing space to be successful. Everyone's careers would be on the line. Besides the fact that no one is going to want to stick their necks out for Target.com (whereas someone might consider it for a site that improves lives in a meaningful way), that's going to be a lot more difficult than you're making it sound.
Amazon actually dealt with this problem in a very elegant fashion, at some point they realized that crap cannot be excised from the system, the reality is due to integrations, 3rd party code and legacy that somewhere there is going to be crap. It was at this point that they started to move to a service based architecture in which they could isolate all business functions into black boxes or services. This way instead of having a monolithic crappy application you have disparate services with some good and some bad. Further they have service teams that are accountable to their business units for the quality of their code. So what they now had was a way to gauge very discrete units based on performance to identify bad solutions, it allowed them to surgically upgrade those areas while not affecting the rest of the system. They where able to replace those pieces of the system, by just ensuring that new solutions conformed to the old service contracts. I know that enterprise solutions don't get a lot of love here on HN because it is not the focus but SOA and by extension REST are very important technologies that help deal with the problem that you highlighted. Amazon, is a very good case study on the subject.
No I did not, I have contacts in the organization, but more importantly, they did a good deal of postmortems and white papers on the subject which where pretty frank about their problems and the solutions they tried using to address them, highlighting what worked and how it worked and what failed and why it failed. I read most that where available because it was a treasure trove of experience in aligning a large organizations development to improve it's quality. As such there are not many other examples that have had the success in doing it that Amazon did. AWS and S3 where two new lines of business that came out of that alignment. They streamlined the idea of business and technology as services to the point that it became a commodity in their organization.
The complication arises when interfacing the e-commerce with existing infrastructure management systems. If someone buys item X from the online store and says they want to pick it up at Store A, the commerce site needs to do several things:
1) Check if the item is in stock at Store A, if so, send a message to take it off the shelf to the store -- access to system wide inventory management.
2) If it's not in store A, find the nearest warehouse and route item X to store A. Give the user an estimate shipping time + Alert Store A the incoming item is reserved for the user.
3) Update global inventory lists and decrement one item X from stocks.
4) Update sales/accounting to let them know of the sale.
The problem isn't in the ecommerce site so much as everything else it has to interface with and do. It has to interface with systems up and down the whole chain, and depending on how up to date and accessible those systems are, it could get real interesting trying to merge them together.
...except the ecommerce system won't do things like stock
control or replenishment, it just sends messages to the systems
that handle those things - so then how do you know when something
is going to be ready at the store?
I'm a retail integration consultant (currently looking for my next gig, to any desperate Oracle Retail users out there :-).
1) Emulate stock control and routing rules in your app (flaky),
2) Hook the ecommerce app deep into the DBs of the other systems (now almost impossible to change those systems due to the level of coupling and the politics it will involve)
3) Go fully realtime with all systems running on a common bus (seriously heavy infrastructure and support requirements)
Ideally you should do 3 but most of the time you end up with some combination of 1 and 2. Then the next "must have" idea comes along, and before you know it your fancy new e-commerce solution has become part of the legacy establishment.
My experience, albeit only the last 2 jobs, with the concept of "Enterprise Service Bus" is that it becomes a magnet for "Architecture Astronauts" with little functionality delivered :-(
But it sounds a hell of a lot more impressive than "we will wrap simple REST or XML-RPC services, for which clients can easily be implemented in various consumer systems, around needed queries and updates, using the technology most amenable to the data store in question, documenting the interfaces, using proper configuration management policies", though.
But maybe that's about what you meant, in a nutshell.
I work at macys.com, and here's where I recruit you!
Unlike most retailers, our e-commerce division operates on its own, and we have the agility (and capital budget) to move quickly and act on big opportunities. Yes, there's a lot of work and headache that's involved with dealing with massive retail systems, and they have about as much legacy stuff as you'd imagine a 150-year-old company with a history of giant acquisitions, but thankfully most of us never have to think about that stuff except at the edge of some giant diagram.
We have a whole bunch of floors in downtown SF that's just for dotcom--mostly engineers, some QA, some product/management, etc. We're reasonably up to date with new technologies--although we're a Java shop, some stuff gets done in Scala, there's an active Hadoop project, and lots of big, interesting problems in scalability, UX, big data, analytics, SEO, etc.
Example: I work on the internal-facing web product setup apps, primarily on product image stuff. Every product has to get photographed (including getting the physical sample from the manufacturer to the right studios, on the right model, etc), color corrected (we sell items in 60+ colors) mapped to products (is this the primary image? a swatch? a back view? which UPCs does it represent? what happens if the color sells out?). This all happens at scale: 130k physical samples trafficked, 150k products, 250k images.
Too bad this is on a weekend before new year's, otherwise I'd get all my favorite dev leaders in here to pitch you. We're growing (even in a down economy, we're posting significant growth year after year) and hiring like crazy (a current search shows 25 open FTE requisitions in SF, and our contract partners even more).
The work environment is a little BigCorp-ish, but it's relaxed (it's SF, after all), and they take work/life balance seriously, so if you're a hacker with a family you're definitely welcome here. I work with a lot of really smart people who get things done. Yes, we sell pants, but you get a 20% discount, and you get to find out when things go on sale beforehand ;)
I'm not sure if these are problems anymore @ macys.com, but here's a list of issues I remember:
1) It is very hard for the company to match market salaries even though its margins are pretty good for a retailer. The only retailer I know of that does well in the salary dept is Amazon.
2) The development culture: I think this is every large retail company, but I feel that you guys tend to favor anything coming out of Big Blue (or Big Company X) as opposed to something technically interesting (but no longer bleeding bleeding edge) in the open source world. You guys tend to buy stuff instead of building. There's definitely nothing wrong with that given the situation and culture, but I feel that it doesn't fit very well with the HN crowd at large.
That being said, Macys.com has some of the coolest, nicest people that you'll ever meet in the workplace; which is really great.
I've shopped at macys.com several times because of the awesome deals on there but every time, I've returned everything that arrived. I also shop Zappos a lot and almost never return anything. For me, I think the site is really lacking on general product information through media (pictures/videos). Most of the products I click on usually have 1 picture (zappos has at least 4 and a video) and the picture doesn't even really help at all (ie: the shirt is tucked into the jeans so you can't see the fit).
What are your thoughts on this? I know you guys have a gang of products but I figure if you have to setup a photo shoot for 1 angel, might as well get every angel. I admit that I don't know what i'm talking about when it comes to this stuff (I'm just using Zappos as a reference).
note: my own opinions, not those of the company, etc
A few reasons:
-- Zappos, to a certain extent, is selling commodities. Every shoe can get photographed exactly the same way, doesn't need to demonstrate fit, doesn't need to communicate a larger style vision. I think they do all their photography when the product enters the warehouse, and the photos don't get much of a touch-up.
-- Macy's, on the other hand, has a creative vision of the various customers and lifestyles we're selling to, and the photos generally have to communicate that. That means: model selection, pairing with pants/shirts, posing, etc. Same with home products like bedding or towels. It's a fine line to walk between making sure to show all the product's features and attributes such as fit, fabric, pattern/embellishment, etc, and communicating the aspirational style vision-- who the customer wants to be when they buy that shirt. It's a tradeoff.
-- Photography is expensive. It takes a lot of people and stuff to create a good fashion photo: model, photographer, hair, makeup, wardrobe stylist, art director, digital capture tech, retoucher, studio, lights, cameras, computers, catering, .. the list goes on. We're ruthless negotiators on this stuff and really efficient, but on a per-product basis it ain't cheap.
-- Macy's fashion is highly seasonal so we might not buy as deep into a given style since it's only good for 6 months or less, so that cost is amortized over a fewer number of sales.
All that said, we're working on it for sure. We're shooting a lot more views of almost everything going forward.
Out of curiosity, why no remote development positions. In today's market, getting the best talent available at the time is better served by broadening your geographic reach. I am interested in why more large organizations are not embracing remote developers given the maturity of technologies such as Skype and Basecamp.
note: my own opinions, not those of the company, etc
A few reasons, some good, some not. We have a large dev organization in many different groups, and there's a lot of cross-group coordination that has to happen to make things go. As a result there's a lots of quick hallway whiteboarding, conversations, stuff hashed out over lunch, etc, as well as lots of meetings. We do have a lot of contract developers and QA around the globe (Montreal, Austin, Brazil, Russia, and India, not necessarily in that order), but as someone who does work remotely (I've moved to contractor status after moving abroad), I can testify that the culture of distributed teams is still evolving.
The other reason is that corporate HR is wary. Which IMHO is somewhat misguided but given the first reason above I can see why.
Here in Dallas, lots of retailers have their corporate headquarters here. I've done some consulting work for one of them in the past and a couple years ago one of them was trying to recruit me pretty heavily for their big e-commerce push.
Most of these companies don't have that many full time employees in their IT departments. A handful of full time employees will oversee an army of contractors and consultants. Most of these folks are specialized in SAP, Oracle, Business Objects, etc and don't know the first thing about building scalable web-based e-commerce.
The sites that do exist tend to be old, monolithic .NET or Java apps with antiquated processes to deploy them. An old boss of mine that went to work for one of these retailers said he had to get 5 physical signatures on a form to push out a CSS file to the site.
had to get 5 physical signatures on a form to push out a CSS file to the site
That is a huge issue that developers see when they see an established company. Then you add in existing technical ego's from other teams and you just have a recipe for a stagnant crashing every month disaster. It's a generalization, but we all make them, it is how we make semi-informed decisions based on loose facts. Some large companies are wrongly maligned in the process but it's the reality.
When I took over the web at Marriott, we separated it from IT all together and made it a business division, in doing so we could make decisions independent of IT approval and we I had an independent budget under my discretion. Many companies just don't get how these slight organizational changes can make a huge difference in a teams ability to deliver technology.
The retailer that tried to recruit me was led by a former startup CTO that was doing much of what you described to try to change things. Aside from separating IT, the other big change was to create a new campus/location with a better dress code, no Web Sense, and a separate network domain.
This post reminds, I should check in with him and see how things are going.
The fact is that being an engineer at Target is very likely a boring, bureaucratic drag. The best engineers are overwhelmingly the best engineers because they love what they do and hone their craft. Someone who takes so much pride in what they do is not likely to get much satisfaction out of developing a website that helps people buy a mop. It's a fine thing to do; people need mops. But it's not a particularly interesting problem to be solving.
So, I think places like Target will always have this problem unless they're willing to pony up the cash and offer more money than the interesting jobs. After all, there's no reason that some behemoth like Target can't compete with some SV startup in salary.
I agree with everything you say, but think it should be emphasized that tech people at (for instance) Amazon are fundamentally in the same 'buy a mop' situation, except that Amazon believes that it is/can be so much more.
Fundamentally, it's clear that Target will never be a company that holds its tech people in awe - whereas at Amazon, you 'just' know that a single mop supplier is lower on the totem pole than a single DBA, for example.
Basic e-commerce for such things as mop-buying is a solved problem in 2011. Not sure why you would even need a large team of top-notch developers at a place like Target. A few good sysadmins and DBAs, and maybe some graphics/front-end types.
Edit: Upon thinking about this a moment longer, I think that actually there would be (or could be) interesting work at Target, simply because of the scale of the operation. Though sadly you are still probably hitting the mark in the "bureaucratic drag" assessment.
Target is the third largest brick and mortar retailer in the US. Running a computer network nationally for Target is not a solved problem. Sure, it's a solved problem for #1 WalMart, using entirely custom software that WalMart developed in house. But it's not like WalMart is selling that software to Target.
Eh I work at a place that is arguably "boring" (we're not in the buy-a-mop business, but it's definitely not sexy) but the culture & freedom I have to operate make it exciting. I get to call some shots on what I make, which is a huge perk for me.
Not only that they have caps on how much developers can make, they are also heavily miss-managed, full of crazy managers with insane ideas, consulting companies with their own agendas, agile that is not even close to agile, etc.
You don't need to be in Silicon Valley to make decent website, you do have to manage it and develop it properly, most don't do that.
So is it just me or does the main example in this article have a glaring flaw? One that appears right in the first sentence?
For a decade, Target (TGT) outsourced its website operations to Amazon.com (AMZN).
I don't know about the other retailers, but Target's recruitment problem begins and ends in this sentence. Target lost the talent war a decade ago; it just took until now for the seeds of their destruction, which they planted and fertilized in Amazon's organization, to grow tall enough to be noticeable.
Oh, well, I'm sure the management genius who scored a short-term boost in profits by feeding the seed corn to Amazon collected a nice bonus.
I have worked in the IT department of a large IT firm. It is frustrating. There is a long irritating procedure for doing even small things.When I decided I'll be using jQuery in one of the screens, the guys at the "top" stopped me saying it may violate copyright laws and stuff like that. Most people are simply not aware of what is going on in the industry.
I must be living in some parallel universe. My resume just sits up on dice and monster and the only hits I get every day are from the same useless headhunters about exciting "6 month" ruby or perl gigs. Sure, I'm not the best at selling myself, and I'm terrible at networking, but you'd think if all this press is true about a dev talent shortage, I'd be seeing some more outreach, even though I'd probably not be interested.
A resume does not count as participation in the talent wars you read about here on HN. There have been many threads here discussing how useless resumes are for identifying programmers who Get Shit Done, who are the ones that companies are fighting over. You can be as insular as you are now with a passive resume, and still have open source code base commits, Github code, and a personal blog that describes problems you run into and how you reached your solutions just so have a handy reference for yourself that is Google indexed. Others will stumble upon these web presences that give them a better handle on your programming talent than a resume, and are possibly in a hiring role. More likely, when you put these types of resources on your resume, potential employers will look at them and assess your coding skills more thoughtfully than reading some lines on a resume virtually indistinguishable from a zillion other resumes. Hope this helps.
Yea, but understand that is not my point, and I'm not asking for your Tony Robbins like advice. If there was such a desperate market for talent out there, I should be seeing it, regardless of whether I was selling myself or not. Either their talent searches are incompetent or this is just manufactured news for somebodies agenda.
No: if a company was really invested in looking for top talent, one would expect to see prominent job postings on its website as well as Dice/Monster/etc.
We shouldn't have to inveigle ourselves into a job in a convoluted networking game. Post the jobs on popular boards, with relevant informed requirements, proportionate pay, and a proper hiring process.
So answer the top poster's question: where are the job ads? Where's the outreach from these needy companies?
Apparently, nothing. Either the companies concerned are still in some recruitment stone age, or the whole article is a sham.
No very few people uses those sites anymore, the jobs are not there. That is the point the other posters are making, the world has moved on, Linked-In and other sites have become the hotbed of activity for recruiting. Headhunters are just scouring the cracks of the internet (Dice, Monster) to find resources that have not been put in front of these organizations, in hopes that they get a hit. They are playing a numbers game. Tech unemployment is officially at 2.7% and I think most on this site would agree, it feels like it's somewhere around that number.
Now that you have heard from big-Corp (Macy's) here is where I pitch you! I'm a one man team working for my family biz Stine Home & Yard. We just launched StineHome.com with very limited product (around 100 products) but goal by end of 2012 is to have over 35,000 products online. Looking to bring on board someone who has exerience with this. No bureaucratic bs. Would have a feeling of a startup in a cool city. Preferably would live in New Orleans/Louisiana area. If interested drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with Hacker News in subject.
Wouldn’t this state of affairs scream out for simple, off-the-shelf ecommerce? Ecommerce platforms have been around as long as the web, but they are enterprisey behemoths (last I looked, a long time ago).
Maybe the limiting factor is the ability to integrate with backend inventory, etc. I suspect there is no lightweight (read: inexpensive developer) way to do this.
(Which makes me wonder if there is a Wordpress for ERP.)
The other way to look at it is that for the 2-3 top players in a sector, there can never be off-the-shelf. WalMart’s differentiation is incredible supply chain, which they had to invent. Being a big guy means you are doing something different, almost by definition.
Walmart is also pushing hard into R&D, see http://www.walmartlabs.com/ . Of all the traditional retailers, I'd say Wallyworld is the most invested in 21st century retail tactics and actually doing a decent job of it.
Except you're working for a corporation that is actively evil. Walmart has a long history of discriminating against women ; has an extremely high percentage of employees who are on welfare (it's at minimum unseemly for an employed person to be paid so poorly they still need welfare) (examples from ohio; general ; arkansas ; washington ); works hard to avoid giving health insurance to their employees -- as of 2005 they only covered 44% ; etc etc etc. There are far more reasons than the type of work to avoid working for a corporation with such a refined sense of ethics.
Yeah I have to agree with you there, it would be hard for me to believe that Walmart would not cut high pay developers at the first opportunity. I remember AT&T forcing my paraplegic developer buddy to train his Indian replacement or face instant termination. To me Walmart seems like the same kind of, eternal quest for profit type organization.
Not trying to take away from your comment, I think there's definitely a place for a "Wordpress for retail" and would be surprised if it doesn't exist (though it's not something I've really looked into). But I'm not sure something like that would easily scale to what Target would need.
The companies you mention are all fine shopping cart providers, but someone who's selling more then a few products (not even the size of Target) needs much more then a simple shopping cart.
* Integration into their inventory systems and multiple warehouses. Do you want to be able to buy on the site, pickup in store? That means you need to tie your ecommerce site to your brick and mortar systems.
* Do you have vendors that dropship on your behalf? You need a way to import their catalog data and send them their orders. Did they mess up and not have inventory by the time your order arrives, better have a way for them to notify you, so you can notify customers.
* Gift cards that work online and in stores.
* Customer service systems that tie to your e-commerce so staff can help customers.
* Syncing all sales data to your finance, ERP, business intelligence and other back-end systems.
* Returns? A system for RMA, tracking returns, issuing refunds and exchanges. Want to buy online/return to store? better tie your store systems to your e-commerce again.
* Marketing? Have to tie your online store your e-mail software.
Building a full fledged e-commerce solution is much harder than many realize. There are great tools that solve parts of what retailers need but there is no all-in-one tool to get a large retailer online and just working out of the box.
There certainly is a "WordPress for retail" - you just have never heard of them because they're very good at marketing only to Big Brands... GSI Commerce (http://gsicommerce.com/)
GSI operates the ecommerce sites for Adidas, Calvin Klein, Marc Ecko, Levis, ToyRUs, RadioShack and many many more significant retailers (http://gsicommerce.com/clients/).
In addition to the e-commerce side of things they also look after warehouse and fulfillment which is why they also are able to setup and run Amazon Prime rival ShopRunner for the sites they maintain.
They're certainly "WordPress for retail" because if you look at most of the sites they run, they all look the same and have similar look/feel. It's all v cookie cutter - just set up the template, create an inventory, ship them the goods, and you're away.
Most interesting fact of all: EBay bought them in March for $2.2bn.
Oh wow that's pretty cool. I used to work on a lot of BigCommerce stores, and while they have an enterprise version which bigger companies can buy (http://www.interspire.com/customers/), I had never heard of GSI Commerce, who seems to have taken the cake for that market.