Business

It’s Time to Thank Teachers Across America

Most of us can recall a teacher who helped us learn, change and grow. For me, there were several, but there’s one who particularly stands out: my mom.

Her resume alone commands respect: She’s taught kindergarten at a rural elementary school since the 1970s. That means that every year, she not only ensures that students learn the basics like numbers and letters – she also shapes a gaggle of fresh-eyed, boundlessly energetic 5-year-olds into polite and productive members of society.

For some students, she may be the first educational influence they’ve experienced, and she takes that responsibility very seriously. When I lived at home, I remember her working countless nights not just grading papers, but also building and creating projects and materials that would give her class an extra boost. All that required was her own extra time, which she didn’t have much of, being a single mother to my sister and me.

So when Walmart announced Teacher Appreciation Week, I couldn’t wait to tell her about it. Through the program, which is happening now through July 31, she and other educators across the U.S. can receive 10% savings on classroom supplies. Over the years, going the extra mile for her class has sometimes meant digging into her own pocket, so I knew she would appreciate the discount. “Every little bit helps,” she replied when I shared the news.

This is the first year for Teacher Appreciation Week, but Walmart has been showing its support of educators for many years. The Walmart Foundation has a Teacher Rewards program, where all Sam’s Club, Walmart stores and distribution centers nationwide give gift cards to local schools to help teachers stock their classrooms. And for the third year, our online tool Classrooms by Walmart provides a convenient way for teachers to share supply lists with new students – and even create classroom wish lists of their own.

I’m proud that after all these years, families in my small town still request to have their kids enrolled in my mom’s class. There are stories like hers in schools in every state, and it’s the perfect time to let those teachers know how big of an impact they’ve truly had.

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Community

Building Hygiene Kits and a Better Future

Shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes – many of us take these basic supplies for granted, but these hygiene items can truly save lives.

In the wake of disasters and crises, where people have often lost everything or fled with just their clothes on their backs, a simple bar of soap can help keep families safe from deadly diseases like cholera.

With the help of our partners, International Medical Corps works to send these essential hygiene kits to countries such as Nigeria, where fighting has forced thousands from their homes in the north, as well as other disaster-prone areas where populations have been displaced.

On June 2, Walmart volunteers attending the company’s annual shareholders meeting came together to assemble hygiene kits for families uprooted by conflict in Nigeria and to prepare for when the next major weather disaster may strike. Along with essentials such as toothpaste, combs and nail clippers, the kits also included solar lights, which provide a safe alternative to fire for visibility during nighttime cooking and studying. These lights also help reduce the risk of violence and sexual assault.

This isn’t the first time International Medical Corps and Walmart have worked together to help disaster-stricken communities across the globe. When Ebola threatened millions across West Africa, the Walmart Foundation was among the first to help, providing swift and flexible support to our emergency response efforts. When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal in April 2015, the Walmart Foundation stepped up once again with a donation that helped us meet immediate needs in some of the most remote villages at the epicenter of the quake.

It was great to see these several hundred volunteers working together. But more than simply showing up, everyone was engaged and wanted to know more about what we were up to and how to give back. The teamwork, energy and enthusiasm were infectious. Everywhere we looked, people were helping others, collaborating, and building hygiene kits for people in need.

Thanks to Walmart, the Walmart Foundation, and the hundreds of associates who came out to pack the family hygiene kits, International Medical Corps will be able to send 1,500 kits to countries affected by disaster and crisis. One thousand kits will be sent to Nigeria, where International Medical Corps is providing health, nutrition, and hygiene services in the remote northern region of the country to families who continue to be displaced by ongoing conflict.

The rest of the kits will be prepositioned and ready to be deployed in the aftermath of the next crisis – wherever and whenever that may be.

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Business

A New Angle on Our Fresh Produce Departments

As a store manager, nothing compares to the thrill of actually seeing or hearing a customer react to a change I’ve worked with a team of associates to bring to life. In fact, since the remodel of our store earlier this year, I’ve purposely spent more time in our fresh produce department, just to watch and listen.

My store was among the first of our remodeled locations to unveil Walmart’s new Fresh Angle approach, which places fresh, unpackaged vegetables front and center. When you walk into our store today, you're intentionally greeted with a farmer’s market vibe. We’ve lowered the profile of our fixtures so customers can see across the entire department. We’ve captured the field-to-store experience, and in a way that’s easier and more enjoyable for customers to navigate. But – while the positive feedback on the visual aspect of the program represents a victory in itself – that barely scratches the surface of what Fresh Angle is all about.

The fact is, “looking” fresh only goes so far. The key is making sure the fresh produce our customers buy in our stores continues to look and taste the same when they pull it out of the fridge three days later. That’s the real driving force behind this new approach, which has been rolled out at 180 stores to date and more than 3,000 by the end of the year.

In addition to improving the sight lines across our produce department, we’ve reconfigured our fixtures to look fuller while holding fewer products. At the same time, we’ve maintained our broad assortment.

Why fewer products? Pressure and time go a long way in determining the freshness of an item. By reducing the depth of our produce fixtures, our avocados are no longer stacked four or five deep. Same goes for tomatoes and so many other popular fresh items. By reducing the depth of our fixtures, we’ve reduced the volume of product we’re holding on the sales floor at any given time. And, given the clock on freshness begins ticking the moment fresh fruit and vegetables are picked, we’re essentially passing increased freshness on to our customers – and working even harder to reduce food waste.

It was eye-opening how a department could look so abundant with less. It’s helping us reduce throwaways and operate more efficiently across the board. We’ve also received positive customer feedback at stores where Fresh Angle has been implemented.

Customers want fresher products so they can enjoy them longer. With Fresh Angle, we’ve developed a vehicle to deliver on those expectations. The impact has been immediate – and it’s growing. It just makes sense.

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Heritage

Remembering Don Soderquist, Retired Walmart COO

Walmart’s culture – defined by our core values of service, respect and excellence – has always been key to our success.

That culture lost a very significant champion this week, as Don Soderquist, a key member of our company’s leadership team until his retirement in 2002, passed away.

Don joined Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president of administration and logistics and was a driving force behind our company’s growth. In fact, he led us through a period of significant progress from 1988 to 1999 when he served as vice chairman and chief operating officer. During his tenure, the company’s revenue increased from $1 billion to more than $200 billion.

Don epitomized the term servant leader. He was always thinking of others, provided great feedback and was encouraging to so many people. He had a deep passion for integrity, and it was Don who drafted our original core values. Don became known as the “Keeper of the Culture” after our founder, Sam Walton, passed away because he not only helped define our values – he lived out our culture and spoke passionately about it year after year. He truly believed that ordinary people could do extraordinary things when they worked together, and he taught the beliefs and values that supported that conviction for the rest of his life. Even after his retirement, he invested his time and energy into many associates who still work for the company.

After retirement, he established The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics in Northwest Arkansas to provide values-focused development training to future generations of leaders. In 2005, he wrote the book “The Walmart Way” to teach others how to apply the lessons that made Walmart successful to their own lives and careers. He was also involved in numerous charitable organizations and served on several corporate boards.

Don touched so many lives here, and he will be dearly missed by his family and all of us at Walmart.

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Sustainability

One ‘Perfect’ Solution for Saving Ugly Apples

As the world’s largest grocer, Walmart knows food waste is a big issue.

For more than a decade, we’ve been doing our part by changing the way we do business and working to create a zero waste future, especially where fresh produce is concerned. Last week, my colleague Frank Yiannas wrote about our dedication to reducing food waste in the U.S., outlining our progress and the ways we’re making a difference with innovative date labeling, as well as the Spuglies potato launch and our wonky veg program at Asda.

Now, we’re excited to announce that after months of discussion, a brand of apples from Washington state, called “I’m Perfect,” will make its debut in Walmart stores this week. One of the challenges growers have is that Mother Nature can throw a curveball such as a hailstorm, high winds or even a string of very hot sunny days, which can damage the exterior finish of fruits. While the texture and flavor remain perfect, the exterior damage usually renders these fruits unsellable in the fresh market because they fail to meet traditional grade standards. We’re proud to be the first retailer to bring these apples to you.

These “beautifully imperfect” apples will eventually be available in 12 varieties from Granny Smith to Red Delicious. For now, about 300 stores in Florida will offer the apples in five-pound bags.

From helping our growers find alternate uses for these less than gorgeous fruits, such as making apple juice or selling small apples for lunch kits, we are committed to identifying options to get less than perfect fruit to market and thereby reduce this type of food waste.

What excites me the most about the launch of these “I’m Perfect” apples is that it is a result of working with our suppliers to build the infrastructure and processes that create a new home for perfectly imperfect produce. Because ugly produce can occur unexpectedly in any growing season or crop, we want to have the systems in place to offer this type of produce whenever it may occur.

The “I’m Perfect” product is just one example of the ways we are aiming to reduce food waste, supporting growers, and providing value to our customers.

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