Walmart U.S. food boss says ‘basics’ a company focus; addresses Single Parent scholarship event

by Nancy Peevy ([email protected]) 1,437 views 

Since its inception in 1984, the Single Parent Scholarship Fund has given out more than 8,000 scholarships totaling more than $6 million.

As consumer behavior changes, Walmart U.S. will continue to implement ways to exceed shoppers’ expectations, said Charles Redfield, executive vice president of Walmart’s U.S. food division.

Redfield spoke to an estimated 220 suppliers and community leaders at the 12th annual Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County (SPSFBC) Corporate Luncheon on Tuesday (May 2) in Rogers.

Redfield said even though consumer behavior is changing to shop online, Walmart believes success begins with their stores.

“There’s a lot of talk about the internet and that customer behavior is changing,” he said. “But the way we look at is that it starts with the stores. And we can tell you that for the last nine quarters straight we’ve had more people, more footsteps and more transactions in our physical stores.”

He told the crowd because of that, the focus is on the stores and how to make them better.

“Right now I would say that you could see us doubling down on the number of stores that we have and how we’re operating them,” Redfield said. “We have over 4,000 stores across the U.S. right now and we’re focused on getting the basics right.”

“Basics” mean a clean store, a fast experience, friendly people and great merchandise, he said. Those things are top priority because those are what their customers expect. So the focus is on the basics, along with trying to make stores operate more efficiently, he said.

“I’ve been in my position for 18 months or so right now and I think we’ve fundamentally changed every single process of how we operate our stores to get the basics right – to satisfy customers.” Redfield said.

He explained to the crowd that what sets shopping in the physical store apart from shopping online is the experience the customer gets in the store.

“Think about pharmacy. One of the most trusted professionals in any industry today is the pharmacist. We have pharmacists and we have pharmacies,” he said. “We can create an experience in our stores, in our pharmacy, that you can’t get online.”

(left to right) Charles and Sue Redfield, Christine Nance, Yuna Lee and Daniel Armbruster. Charles Redfield, a Walmart executive vice president, spoke at the luncheon. Nance told her story as a scholarship recipient.

He said that holds true in other parts of the store too.

“What about tire lube express? Can you put tires on with a computer?” he said. “What about the deli area? Can you get served a hot meal when you order it online? Right when you want it? You can in a store.”

Another trend Walmart management is seeing is the importance to consumers of choice and convenience. Redfield said that is the reason why many people shop digitally. So, Walmart’s focus is on expanding their customer’s choices and finding unique ways of doing that. He said the key is knowing what sets you apart from other options customers have.

“What’s going to make you different,” Redfield said. “It’s interesting, the customer today likes to be served in a lot of different ways … and so we offer a lot of options for our customers to shop the way they like to shop.”

Grocery pick up and online ordering with in-store pick up are two examples.

“We have online grocery pick up, which our customers are absolutely loving,” he said. “We’ve got it in 650 to 700 stores today and are expanding.”

Redfield said home delivery is next and tests are being done with Uber and Lyft.

“We have all these things because … if you don’t deliver on the customer’s expectation on how they want to shop, you’re not going to be in their consideration set in the future, and they may not choose to shop with you at all,” he said.

Walmart’s point of difference, he noted, is to make sure they exceed customer expectations on how they want to shop, no matter which way that is. Finally, Redfield said Walmart wants to “connect where it counts and win hearts.” He said that their customers, especially millennials, like organizations that care and take corporate responsibility seriously. Therefore, sustainability is a key issue for the company, as evidenced by the sustainability summit held last month.

(left to right) David Bellner, Hank Schepers and Stacie Furlano with Colgate-Palmolive, which was one of the presenting sponsors.

The other thing Redfield said resonates with their customers is their “Made in the USA” program, which encourages companies to manufacture their products in the United States. Redfield concluded by saying that this is an exciting time for Walmart.

“Everything is converging. It’s about physical and digital and that converges,” he said. “One reason it’s exciting is because we have the opportunity to shape what the future of retail looks like. That’s what’s happening now. Competition is fierce. Great. That’s what makes us better.”

In addition to Redfield’s talk, Christine Nance spoke to the crowd about her journey as a single mother and the help she received as a recipient of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund from 2007 to 2012, during which time she attended NorthWest Arkansas Community College and John Brown University. Nance is an inventory manager at Sam’s Club Corporate Office.

Organizers hoped to raise more than $72,000 from the event and all donations go directly to student programs and scholarships. Walmart, Sam’s Club and Colgate-Palmolive were presenting sponsors of the luncheon.

SPSFBC’s stated mission is to enable single parents to attain self-sufficiency through post-secondary education. In addition to providing tuition, recipients also can get help with rent, utilities, transportation, counseling and other critical needs.

New applicants are being interviewed for the 2017 fall semester and can apply at the organization’s website.