Walmart U.S. execs talk success, challenges and opportunity

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,531 views 

Former NFL player and actor Terry Crews was the special guest host at the event.

More than 3,000 of the 1.5 million Walmart U.S. employees donned in matching blue t-shirts filed into Bud Walton Arena early Wednesday (May 31) to kick off the retail giant’s annual shareholder week. What they heard first from top U.S. executives was “thank you.”

Walmart U.S. COO Judith McKenna opened the meeting saying just that, “Thank you for the difference you have made.”

There was plenty to celebrate, according to the Wal-Mart execs, from the 1.4% same-store sales reported in the retailer’s first quarter to the 63% jump in e-commerce sales during that same period and 7.3% decline in inventory levels. But some of the most applauded accomplishments included:

• Reduced pickup wait time by 29% and increased customer satisfaction;
• Closing at 6 P.M. on Christmas Eve;
• More than 100,000 employees were Academy graduates;
• Shipped 6% more cases last year; and
• Raised over $60 million for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

“We are winning, and you are part of a company that’s taking it to the competition,” McKenna said.

She said training is making a difference and the Walmart Academy’s are a “game changer.” This year she said nearly 250,000 employees will have gone through the academy training. The retailer will have 200 of the academies open by the end of this summer. McKenna also called on employees to be “advocates for anything is possible.” She said there will always be challenges but it’s crucial that employees understand three reasons why they should be advocates.

“Wal-Mart is winning and you can make a bigger difference with Walmart than any other company and there is loads of opportunity for you to to grow at Wal-Mart.”

Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran said the reason he spends the majority of his time out in stores is because he believes when and where you stand determines what you see.

“I have to stand with you in the stores to see what your needs are. My parents were teachers and I suppose I do a lot of teaching, more so I am learning for each of you,” he said.

“We face enormous challenges … convenience and saving time is important but I also believe price is just as important and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Our 4,676 stores footprint is unrivaled and our e-commerce business is growing each day. Converging these two is a big task but it puts us in a strong position,” Foran said.

The one thing that Foran said could tip the scale in Wal-Mart’s favor is “you” he told them.

“You are the spark at the core of the Wal-Mart experience. If we get it wrong and someone has a bad experience that’s a downer, but if we get it right it gives us an enormous advantage,” he added. “You are the human authenticity than makes the difference.”

In typical Wal-Mart fashion there was entertainment at the event. Former NFL player and actor Terry Crews was the special guest host at the event. He hosted a game of “Walmart Associates Gameday” between management and employees. He treated everyone to his rendition of “Play that Funky Music.” Rising pop star Julia Michaels also performed two songs for the crowd as the musical guest.

Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer, took the stage wearing flashlight high top sneakers, one of the new items sold in Walmart this year. He believes the retailer will sell enough of the shoes to light 40 Christmas trees for Rockefeller Center. He also promoted a new tent from Ozark Trails that is equipped with LED lights. He also touted a new M&Ms candy flavor — caramel chocolate which were parachuted down from the ceiling for everyone to try. The party gift in every seat was blow up floats shaped like cupcakes, sodas, or popsicles. Each of the products are new at Walmart.

The shareholder meeting is set for Friday morning at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.