Life

Mom Knows Best

This is an excerpt from the May 2014 edition of Parade Magazine, by Alison Gwinn and Lan Truong.

If you want a window into American families today, ask a mom to describe her life. This is what you’ll hear: “Nonstop.” “Overwhelming.” “Chaos.” But you’ll also hear this: “Grateful.” “Blessed.” “Fulfilled.” To mark the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day, in partnership with the Walmart Moms Research Project*, Parade Magazine conducted in-person interviews and polled 1,000 moms to understand what matters most to them in 2014.

Here are a few highlights:

Moms Have a Lot on Their Plates
47% help their kids with their homework every night

They Keep Their Family Close
78% eat dinner together with their kids most nights every week

They Are Confident That They’re Doing a Good Job
38% consider themselves a better mom than their own mothers

Read more at Parade.com and hear directly from moms on whether they’re saving for their kids’ college education, how they feel about the effects of the recession…and what they wish they had done differently. Get the full story.

* The Walmart Moms Research Project, which began in 2009, sheds light on a critical group of swing voters (defined as women with a child under 18 at home, who have shopped at Walmart at least once in the past month). Learn more at Parade.com

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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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Life

From Lanterns to Lions, Ringing in Chinese New Year

Feb. 8 marks the start of Chinese New Year, China’s most important celebration for families. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is a weeklong public holiday during which families celebrate a year of hard work and wish for good luck in the coming year.

Those shopping in our stores in China see lots of Chinese New Year decorations and traditional foods stocked for this busy time. For readers who aren’t in China, here’s some background on the celebrations.

Traditional Family Meals

Before the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, people all over China travel to their hometowns to unite with their families and decorate their homes in red — a color that symbolizes good luck and joy — and prepare for Chinese New Year celebrations. The night before the Chinese New Year, we prepare a feast made up of symbolic foods:

  • In Chinese culture, a fish course represents wealth in the future, while peanuts signify longevity and good health.
  • Some food symbolism in Chinese New Year dishes is more visual, such as hot pot, which involves simmering meat and vegetables in a round pot at the center of the table. The shape of the pot represents perfection and satisfaction.
  • Dumplings are an example of a food with a more historical tie because they resemble the gold currency — Yuanbao — used in ancient China. Today, dumplings are still thought to signify wealth in the coming year and are a delicious treat stuffed with different fillings.

Celebrations

Like with New Year’s Eve in the U.S. and other western countries, Chinese New Year involves staying up late. We light firecrackers at midnight, a tradition that dates back to ancient folklore. Though the New Year is a cause for celebration now, legend has it that Chinese villagers used to stoke their fires with bamboo to keep away a terrifying, sharp-toothed monster that arose from the sea at the end of the lunar year to prey on people and livestock. Now, we use firecrackers to celebrate the new year and also scare off any bad luck that might be on the horizon.

Celebrations culminate in the Lantern Festival, where people gather to admire the illuminated lanterns (some floating, some carried by children, some fixed as decorations) and guess riddles written on them. On New Year’s Day, people also watch lion dances, in which participants don elaborate, mythical lion costumes that seem larger than life — and eat rice dumplings.

One of our family traditions is for children and grandchildren to wish elders in the family good wishes for the new year and, in turn, the elders will give children a red envelope of money for good luck and to buy toys and books.  Children often sleep with the red envelope under the pillow to bring good luck throughout the year.

The Year of the Monkey

This year is the year of the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. People born in the year of the monkey are believed to be energetic, witty and mischievous. I look forward to greeting the year of the monkey surrounded by my family and enjoying the snacks and festivities that come with the celebrations. No matter your Chinese zodiac, may the New Year bring good fortune to you and your family!

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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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