Life

Back-to-School Shopping: 5 Stress-Free Tips for Your Family

As you think about getting your family ready for back-to-school shopping, you may feel like there's a lot to remember and feel a little stressed. But, with a little planning, back-to-school shopping and organizing doesn't have to be stressful and can actually be relatively care-free – maybe even fun for your family! Let me share some ideas to get your family involved in the back-to-school process.

1. Get the Whole Family Involved

The process of planning, organizing, and shopping for back-to-school doesn't have to fall on just one person. While it may seem easier for either mom or dad (or both) to purchase back-to-school clothes and supplies with little input from the children, getting the whole family involved is a good thing. Children will learn responsibility, the value of their clothes and supplies, and can take pride in being part of the decision-making process when picking out their items. As a parent, you get a little helping hand through delegating some of the responsibilities – an all around win-win! 

2. Plan Ahead 

One of the best things you can do to prepare for back-to-school time is plan ahead. I like to take inventory of clothes and supplies my kids have in the home that can be re-used for the next year. For example, younger kids like my third-grade daughter could easily use scissors, rulers, clipboards, and even pencil boxes that are in good condition. Sometimes at the end of the school year, teachers also return labeled school supplies that were not used, so I save those for use the next year and save myself a little money.

A great resource you can use to plan ahead is the Classrooms by Walmart tool on Walmart.com. This great online tool can help you find school supply lists from schools all across the nation, and if you choose, you can purchase those school supplies online for a super convenient option to help you save time!


3. Shop Early (But Not Too Early!)

It's good to shop a little early, especially for back-to-school supplies and perhaps clothes. The trick is to avoid shopping too early, so your children don't outgrow the new clothes before school begins! However, shopping early will help you bypass some of those last-minute crowds in the store and will give you greater selection on the shelves.

4. Take Advantage of Sales Tax Holidays and Walmart’s Savings Catcher

Many states offer sales tax holidays where state sales taxes are not collected on clothes and school supplies (up to a certain dollar amount). This helps stretch your dollar a little further and can really help save you money when purchasing back-to-school items for multiple children, especially when combined with Walmart's already low prices! Plus starting August 4, Walmart’s Savings Catcher will be available nationwide. Just visit Walmart.com/SavingsCatcher, enter your receipt number, and if a local competitor has a lower advertised price, you get an e-gift card for the difference.

5. In the Store: Divide and Conquer

When my family goes back-to-school shopping, my husband and I typically like to take the "divide and conquer" approach. We split our list up and decide ahead of time what each of us is responsible for. Perhaps he will be in charge of gathering up a few basic school supplies and choosing clothes for our 3-year-old son, while I help our daughter choose and try on clothing. What’s even better this year is that Walmart has new store maps that help you navigate through the store, finding just the supplies you need. Take it from me; consider dividing up when in the store to help you get through your back-to-school shopping quicker!

Hopefully you'll find these five simple back-to-school tips will help make this year's back-to-school season a little smoother for your family! What other tips can you share?

All photos © Melanie Edwards/modernmami™

Melanie Edwards is the founder and editor of modernmami™.com, an award-winning lifestyle blog, and a proud member of the Walmart Moms Program. Originally from Puerto Rico, Melanie now resides in the Tampa Bay area of sunny Florida with her husband of 11 years and two children. Connect with Melanie on Twitter at @modernmami.

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Health & Wellness

Walmart Associate Conquers North Pole Marathon

Some people will go a long way to support charity. For Dorn Wenninger, vice president of global food sourcing for Walmart U.S., not even the North Pole is too far.

Dorn was one of 56 runners from 21 countries who participated in the 14th annual North Pole Marathon on April 9. Dubbed the “World’s Coolest Marathon,” the 26.2-mile race not only challenges endurance athletes with its snow-covered, icy terrain and bone-chilling weather, it also supports a variety of worthy causes with hundreds of thousands of dollars raised each year.

Crossing the finish line after five hours and 17 minutes, Dorn captured first place and secured his spot in an exclusive group of 428 people worldwide who have completed the marathon since 2002.

This year’s competitors ran to raise money for a variety of causes worldwide. Dorn, who has been with Walmart almost six years, serves on the boards of two nonprofit organizations: Cobblestone Farm in Northwest Arkansas and Amigos de las Americas. He will continue to raise money for Cobblestone Farm, which produces organic produce that is then donated to local food banks.

“I’m passionate about healthy eating, farming and produce,” he said.

His passion also extends to running. In January, he participated in a marathon in Trinidad and Tobago, where the temperature was 130 degrees warmer than the lowest temperature he experienced while at the North Pole.

Knowing that running on snow and ice would be different, he trained for the North Pole event on dirt and gravel trails. But the terrain wasn’t his only concern. With temperatures between -25 and -43 degrees Fahrenheit, his respiration froze and built up on his face mask. He used three different masks throughout the five-hour run and ended up with early signs of frost bite on his nose.

His North Pole adventure was supposed to last one and half days, but a crack in the runway prevented Dorn from flying out for three days. Despite the delay, he said the trip was an amazing experience.

Running is a great way to deal with stress, he said – even on 6 feet of ice floating on 14,000 feet of Arctic Ocean. It also can have a positive impact on other areas of life, from personal to business.

“Achieving the seemingly impossible helps demonstrate that almost anything is possible, even when others don’t believe it is,” he said. “Determination, focus and persistence go a long way in achieving goals.”

Dorn never imagined he’d win the North Pole race, but with that victory in hand, he now has his eye on a few other challenges just as difficult – or more so.

“It's incredible what people are capable of when they put their mind to it,” he said. “The thought of running a marathon at the North Pole sounds so extreme that it's virtually unbelievable. I welcomed the challenge of proving, to myself, that it is possible.”

Photos courtesy of North Pole Marathon.

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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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Innovation

How Lab 415-C is Changing the Shopping Experience

Technology is changing the way people live.

At Walmart’s Lab 415-C, we look for disruptive, innovative technology that has the potential to change the way people shop. But not just change that part of their lives – make it better.

From augmented reality to robotics, our team discovers and tests emerging technology that powers the shopping experience our customers want. In fact, we’re even named after an early innovation in Walmart’s heritage: Sam Walton’s 415-C airplane, which he used to scout real estate from the sky (a business-growth tactic that was unheard of in the 1950s).

How do we bring these innovations to our customers and associates? It starts with research. You wouldn’t buy a car without researching its capabilities, safety and reliability, right? We research between 700-750 technologies a year and make sure we know the technology’s maturity, use cases, comparisons and how it can improve shopping for customers. We look at everything from technology that helps associates run stores more efficiently to capabilities in the internet of things (connected devices that communicate without human interaction, such as a smart thermostat).

But what good is research if it isn’t shared with others? That’s where our showcasing team comes in. More than 5,000 people come through Lab 415-C each year. Our showcasing team helps plan discussions, brainstorms and events within Walmart and the greater entrepreneurial and academic community to accelerate how we find innovative technology.

Testing technologies for how they’ll work within Walmart is another aspect of Lab 415-C’s capabilities. We’ve tested technologies internationally, at local stores and within our lab at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Failing fast is key, so we don’t see failure as a roadblock; we see it as a way to finesse the solution to fit Walmart’s needs.

An important way we find solutions that fit our customers’ needs is by sourcing innovations from technology suppliers. This October, we are doing that in a big way through our Technology Innovation Open Call, an event where our leaders will meet with companies creating the latest technology for retail, logistics, big data, security and social media.  

Our open call event is a great opportunity for companies to pitch their innovations to the largest retailer in the world. I can’t wait to see what ideas and inventions we’ll discover! Together we will transform the shopping experience.

Submission deadline for potential selection in the Technology Innovation Open Call is July 22, 2016, or the first 250 submissions. For details and an application, click here.

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Opportunity

A Brother, a Sister, and Success in Parallel

Editor’s Note: With this post, we follow up with two associates who previously shared their stories on video.

Proximity brought Nicholas Qualman to Walmart, but his personal drive has since taken him far.

In 1998, the then 16-year-old was working for a fast-food chain located in the parking lot of the Walmart store in his hometown of Marinette, Wisconsin. He was tired of making burgers and wanted to work the counter, but with no positions open, he had to look elsewhere for a new challenge.

He applied at Walmart and was hired as a cashier, and he hasn’t stopped moving since. 

By the time he was featured in this 2011 video, he’d earned 10 promotions. After that, he lost count.

“I’ve had many careers within the same company,” he said, reciting every title he has held, which comes to about 16.

His ambition has taken him from cashier to department manager to a role leading education for other associates and many – many – points in between. In the summer of 2015, he began helping to support the rollout and day-to-day operations of online grocery, which includes store pickup and home delivery – a job that he says is his favorite thus far.

“It’s a completely new way of us serving the customer,” he said. “I equate it with being the supercenter of this generation. It’s a game changer for stores and for our customers.”

As Nick moved up in the company, he also moved around. “One of the great things is you get to experience different people and the company in different geographies,” he said.

He transferred from Northeast Wisconsin to Minneapolis for college, then worked in Sacramento; San Diego; Los Angeles; Princeton, New Jersey; Boston; and Scottsdale, Arizona. He now calls San Bruno, California, home.

Like Brother, Like Sister

Nick’s drive can only be matched by that of his sister, Jessica Crow. It took her only five years to do what he did in 17 years, Nick said with pride and a bit of brotherly frustration.

“We’re kind of in competition,” he said, “and I’ve got to tell you, I’m struggling to keep ahead. She’s told me several times she wants my job.”

Jessica joined the military after college and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When she returned to the States, she toured the country with the Pentagon to share her experiences.

Despite what she’d gained in the military, finding a satisfying job in the private sector was difficult, Nick said. She worked in logistics but didn’t feel happy or challenged. That’s when Nick offered to share her resume within Walmart. But, he told her he wouldn’t push it: Getting hired was up to her.

It wasn’t long before Jessica was offered the position of developmental store manager. She made it to store manager in three months and moved to a new store after a year and half. A few promotions later, she is now a divisional manager – also surpassing the story she shared in this 2013 video.

After talking about his sister, Nick was quick to point out, “My story isn’t unique – it’s one of many, many stories of Walmart associates. Not everyone has had a chance to tell their story.”

Nick doesn’t want his story to end here. He achieved his last goal of joining the e-commerce team, and now he’s setting his sights on Walmart International, the one area he says he hasn’t yet touched. For now, Nick sees himself sticking with online grocery for the next five years or more – if he can keep his sister at bay. “I’m just worried about my job,” he joked.

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