Business

Providing Quality Health Benefits for Our Associates

In the U.S., the 1.3 million people who work at our stores, clubs and distribution centers are vital to a great experience for the 140 million customers shopping with us each week. We’re in business because our associates bring us their unique skills and talents – and so we do our absolute best to offer all the benefits that come with a great job, particularly affordable health insurance.

Anyone who has been following the news for the last several years knows that health care is a major topic of debate. From doctors’ visits and prescriptions to insurance premiums, health care costs have increased for all of us – individuals and the companies that insure them – each year. Knowing this, Walmart continues to work with health care providers and professionals, using our size and influence to negotiate the best rates and options for our associates.

Like every company, Walmart continues to face rising health care costs. This year, the expenses were significant and led us to make some tough decisions as we begin our annual enrollment. As a result, today we announced that our associates will see an increase in premiums for 2015. For example, our most popular and lowest cost associate-only plan will increase by $3.50 to $21.90 per pay period – still half the average premium other retail employees pay.


We’re also changing eligibility for some part-time associates. We will continue to provide affordable health care to all eligible associates, including part-time, who work more than 30 hours. However, similar to other retailers like Target, Home Depot, Walgreens and Trader Joe’s, we will no longer be providing health benefits to part-time associates who work less than 30 hours. This will impact about 2% of our total U.S. workforce.  We will be working with a specialist, HealthCompare, to personally guide our associates through the process of finding the right, affordable health care.

We are proud of the health care plans we offer, which are among the best in the retail industry, as well as the new benefits we’ve introduced over the past two years for our associates. This includes a vision plan that launched this year and our innovative Centers of Excellence program that began in 2013 that covers select spine and heart procedures at no cost to our associates. We expanded Centers of Excellence this year to include knee and hip replacement surgeries and, for 2015, we’re excited to be adding breast, lung and colorectal cancer care at the Mayo Clinic.

We don’t make these decisions lightly, and the fact remains that our plans exceed those of our peers in the retail industry. Our premiums remain well below the industry average compiled by expert Aon Hewitt.  We also continue to pay the majority of health care costs for associates covered under our medical plans. For example, on average we cover more than 60% of our associates’ total health care costs and more than 75% of their premium costs. In contrast, the retail industry pays, on average, about 54% of total health care costs and 68% of employee premiums.

All of our eligible associates – both full and part-time – will continue to benefit from our health care options that include no lifetime maximum, preventative care covered at 100%, and $250 up to $1,000 to help pay for medical expenses. We believe these options are among the best in the retail industry.

As our associates continue to work hard for our customers, we will continue working hard to keep their benefits as affordable as possible, enhance the quality of health care they receive and make the cost more transparent, which will benefit everyone.

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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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Business

With 25 Years in the Can, We’re Toasting Sam’s Cola

Excitement is bubbling in our beverage aisles this summer as we celebrate a major milestone for one of our first private brand items.

Sam’s Cola is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. I’m part of the beverage team who worked to refresh the taste of this iconic item ahead of this anniversary. Along the way, I found some interesting things.

While the ingredients have stayed the same, we do occasionally tweak formulation to ensure we’re delivering what customers want. The formula hadn’t been updated for some time until recently, when third-party testing showed it could use tinkering. It’s all about how our customers see quality.

While today’s customers are used to seeing retailers provide store-brand options, Sam’s Cola was a very new thing in 1991. The soda was one of three private brands launched in our grocery business.

Mark Clark, a member of the original carbonated soft drinks team for Walmart U.S. who now works in dry grocery and global food sourcing, once said, “If it hadn’t have been for the success of Sam’s American Choice [the soda’s name at the time], there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have done Great Value.”  He’s right.

Sam’s Cola paved the way for our private brands that customers love, like Great Value, Sam’s Choice and Marketside. Our private brands play a big role in how we help people save money without sacrificing quality. Plus, coming up with exciting new items within our private brands assortment is one of the reasons why I love working at Walmart.

Our founder, Sam Walton, was hesitant to go into the private label soda business. When the team approached him about launching what was then Sam’s American Choice, he had two requests: First, it had to be as good, if not better, than the national brands. Second, it had to be priced at a great value to the customer. Today, we still deliver a great item worthy of his name.

The idea started brewing when David Glass, then our chief executive officer, noticed a price and quality gap between national brands and other items on the market. He tasked merchants to come up with a unique-tasting soda that would please customers and help them save money.

Dallas Dobbs, who was also part of the original team, said it wasn’t easy breaking into the soda business in those days.

“Our job is to sell what the customers buy. We don’t create demand; we satisfy it,” explained Dallas, who is now a senior buyer.

The flavors were difficult to come up with, Dallas says, but the team ended up developing a high-quality product – and they did it with amazing speed. It took just three and a half months to go from pitching the idea to putting the product on store shelves. And, can you believe Doug McMillon, our current president and CEO, was the very first merchant for Sam’s Cola?

I’m particularly proud that ever since that first can, Sam’s Cola has been made in the United States. Sam was passionate about supporting U.S. manufacturing and approved production of the original cola in Columbus, Georgia. It launched in 2,300-plus stores with three versions: Cola, Diet Cola and Caffeine Free Diet Cola. Today, this customer favorite is sold in more than 4,600 Walmart stores across the U.S.

Look for special packaging featuring the original Walton 5 &10 store and Sam Walton’s pickup on large packs of Sam’s Cola through October and help us celebrate the 25th anniversary of a product that continues to be made with the customer in mind.

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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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Community

Making Room to Provide the Gift of Vision

The ability to see is personal for me because my vision began to deteriorate when I was a child.

One day, I couldn’t see the chalkboard anymore. I couldn’t read the letters. Since then, I’ve had to wear either glasses or contact lenses. So I can relate to someone who does not have the ability to see. Vision and its connection to daily function and providing for your family is significant.

My distribution center, Walmart Optical #7054, started donating warehouse space to RestoringVision – a nonprofit that helps get glasses to those in need – two years ago, and recently, RestoringVision received a massive gift of eyeglasses that they had nowhere to house. Because ours is the only optical-focused distribution center within Walmart’s supply chain, I knew we would be uniquely equipped to help.

When major donations arrived, Walmart volunteers got to work in preparing these donations for shipment around the world. As we continue to work on this, the Walmart Foundation matches our volunteer hours with donation money that is passed along to RestoringVision.

When I hear the stories of how people can now provide for their families because of the work of RestoringVision, I instantly feel a sense of pride that we are a part of that mission. Helping people live better is what we do at Walmart. The partnership that we have established with RestoringVision is one way that we are better able to achieve that goal.

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