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Walmart focused on serving ‘next generation’ customers

BY Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — After nearly four hours of music, cheering, celebrity appearances and brief presentations by senior executives, Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke wrapped up the company’s annual shareholders’ extravaganza Friday morning by sharing five priorities associated with serving what he called the next generation of customers.

He touched on the company’s commitment to growth as priority one, with an adherence to the philosophy of everyday low prices and everyday low costs as the second priority. Further acceleration of efforts in the area of global e-commerce was mentioned third, followed by the need for talent as the fourth priority. Lastly, Duke said the fifth priority revolved around the concept of “live better” where Walmart leverages its size to make an impact on such pressing societal issues as hunger or sustainability.

“Our next-generation customer will include millions who are striving to join the emerging global middle class. They’re from the countryside around Punjab, India, and the blue collar suburbs of Sao Paulo, Brazil. They’re in the big cities, from the wards of Chicago to the boroughs of New York City," Duke said. "They’re connected to the world through smartphones and social media. They’re in charge of when they shop and how they shop. And believe me, they know who has the lowest prices.”

“They don’t want to have to choose between products they can afford and products that mean a better life, like sustainably grown local fruits and vegetables," Walmart’s president and CEO continued. "They care about sustainability and like that we do too. They also have higher expectations for the role of business in solving problems. Only those businesses that solve problems will earn trust.”

Trust has long been a core element of Walmart’s value proposition, and, according to Duke, it is what will drive the company’s ability to maintain growth worldwide and domestically. Doing so will require an unwavering commitment to, and the daily execution of, a strategy rooted in expense control. “To deliver EDLP, to drive growth and really churn the productivity loop, we have to be an EDLC operator. Over the past couple of years you’ve done a great job quarter after quarter of leveraging expenses,” Duke told the approximately 15,000 people who attended the event at Bud Walton Arena on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.

Duke then retrieved a copy of Sam Walton’s biography from a nearby podium and in a scene reminiscent of a preacher reading from a Bible, he shared a passage in which the late Walmart founder shared his thoughts on expense control. “Every time Wamart spends one dollar foolishly, it comes right out of our customers’ pockets. Every time we save them a dollar, that puts us one more step ahead of the competition,” Duke read from Walton’s book. “No one controls costs better than Walmart because we do it for the right reason.”

That reason, as attendees at the event were reminded repeatedly, is to save people money so they can live better. Duke added that it is going to take even more talent and dedicated leaders to deliver on that global mission in the future. “That means better training and greater opportunity for our store associates. And it means thinking globally and building teams that reflect today’s world. I also appreciate the progress we’ve made with diversity and inclusion. But we’re going to do more for women and minorities, and that’s a promise,” Duke said.

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Giant Food’s private-label products get new design

BY Alaric DeArment

CARLISLE, Pa. — Royal Ahold banner Giant Food Stores is giving its private-label products a new look.

Giant and Martin’s Food Markets, also known as Giant-Carlisle, said it would introduce a new packaging design for nearly 2,000 products that would hit store shelves through the end of the year. The new design is based on the name and private-label product logos used by Royal Ahold’s two other U.S. banners, Stop & Shop and Giant Food of Landover, Md., also known as Giant-Landover, though Giant-Carlisle spokesman Christopher Brand told Drug Store News that the banner had no intention of changing its own name logo.

“We are changing our packaging to this great new look for all of our Giant and Martin’s own-brand products to signal that we have improved the quality of our products,” Giant VP sales and merchandising Jeff Beaulieu said. “More than 250,000 customers have tested the quality of our own brand of products, and hundreds of items have been reformulated to improve upon taste and quality as a result of this consumer feedback.”

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Consumer-directed healthcare model struts its stuff

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Anyone wondering what the future of health care under a more consumer-directed model will look like got a glimpse of it from two pieces of news this week.

(THE NEWS: Sam’s Club celebrates men’s health with free screenings. For the full story, click here)

(THE NEWS: MinuteClinic offers free diabetes monitoring package. For the full story, click here)

An estimated 1-in-6 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes. Because of this, the free men’s health screenings that Unilever is sponsoring over the weekend at Sam’s Club stores, provided by Carmen Ingle & Associates, indicate of just how much potential retailers have to address even some of the most serious health crises.

A nurse practitioner doesn’t have the education or specialization of an oncologist, and while Sam’s Club doesn’t have clinics, it shows that retailers can offer some of the same services as physician offices and thus reduce the burden on them, all the while doing so at a lower price. That, in turn, can help lower the burden on people buying their own health insurance and payers, as well as the employers — including many of the small business owners who are Sam’s Club members — that will be required to buy medical insurance for their employees under the healthcare-reform law.

In addition to Sam’s Club, CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic locations will offer a package of diabetes management services this summer. With diabetes — mostly Type 2 — affecting nearly 26 million Americans, retailers are in an ideal position to do a lot to help mitigate the epidemic.

Regardless of the amount of money healthcare reform saves the system overall, these kinds of services offer another dimension of savings by providing low-cost, walk-in care, especially now that the model is changing to expand from acute care to detection and management of chronic disease states.

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