Life

5 Quick and Easy Back-to-School Crafts and Snacks

It’s hard to believe that it’s time to start talking about Back to School already. I mean, it feels like summer just started! But a quick glance at the calendar tells me that the big day is practically here.

I won’t lie – there’s a small part of me that will be doing a little happy dance that first day when the bus pulls away. There’s been a lot of bickering and arguing among my five kids as of late…

But I’ll also miss the one-on-one time that summers afford me, as well as being able to schedule spontaneous family outings any day of the week. So we’ll be making the most of our time before school starts by cooking and crafting and creating fun memories.

I’m still planning exactly what projects we’re going to tackle, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites that we’ve done as a family in the past.

Washi Tape Personalized School Supplies

School supplies just don’t get any cuter than these basics that have been doctored up with Washi tape! Young children will need some help using the X-acto knife for trimming the tape (or scissors will work as well), but they’ll have a blast choosing colors and patterns and wrapping the Washi tape to personalize all of their school supplies.


Create A Homework Box

This is a little project that we complete every year as we’re shopping for school supplies. We pick up an extra or two of all of the items on our list that we may need to use for homework assignments, and pick up a plastic storage box that will house them all. It makes homework time so much simpler because the supplies are specifically designated for homework only, meaning those house-wide hunts for a glue stick or scissors are a thing of the past!


DIY Friendship Pins Kit

Do you remember friendship pins? I put this adorable kit together for my girls when my youngest was starting first grade. She was a little nervous about being in school all day for the first time, and showing her how to make friendship pins was a great way to get her excited about going to school. She couldn’t wait to pass out her creations to her classmates – the pins were the perfect way to help her connect with old and new friends!


DIY No-Crust Frozen Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

Prep for school lunches by making a huge batch of these homemade No-Crust PB & J sandwiches. Dare I say my kids might prefer their custom creations to the store-bought variety? Making a huge batch in the days before school starts will make packing those lunches a snap!


No Bake Peanut Butter Bars for Back To School

I’d recommend waiting to whip up a batch of the no bake PB bars until the night before school starts; any sooner and they just won’t last! Three main ingredients, plus your choice of mix-ins, means that this recipe can be made to please. They double as an on-the-go breakfast and a delicious after school snack!


My favorite aspect of all of these projects is that they take very little time and effort, leaving plenty of time for laughing and chatting about the upcoming school year. We all start to go a little stir crazy when the hottest days of summer are upon us, but activities like these always bring us together and end up being tons of fun.

Tara Kuczykowski is the mom behind the blog Unsophisticook.com and is a member of the Walmart Moms Program

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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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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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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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Business

What is Seamless Shopping? Q&A with CEO Doug McMillon

The following conversation with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is excerpted from our 2016 Annual Report, which was released today. Read the report.

Q: We’re now living in a new period of retail disruption, largely driven by rapid technological advances, and that change is likely to accelerate even further. What does the future look like for Walmart?

A: Our work starts and ends with the customer. Technology has changed customer expectations. Customers used to compare us with the store down the street; now they compare us with the best online shopping experience. And beyond retail, they compare us with every business they interact with in their lives. They compare our pickup experience to the speed and friendliness of the best drive-through. They compare our checkout process to the ease of paying with an app.

Customers should be able to shop on their own terms – in a great store or club, with a quick pickup stop on the way home from work, or with items reliably arriving at the front door. And customers want to have some money left over to put toward their priorities: an experience together as a family, a special gift every once in a while, or savings for a rainy day.

Retail is not just about putting items on a shelf anymore. It’s about fighting for our customers, cutting out the hassles and advocating for them on price, too. We’re moving beyond just selling products to being the brand customers rely on to make their lives simpler and more meaningful as they save money.

Q: You’ve mentioned “seamless shopping” before. What does that mean, and how will Walmart deliver?

A: It starts with unparalleled assets that only Walmart has – our 2.3 million people; more than 11,500 retail locations; e-commerce websites and apps; and a dynamic, optimized supply chain. But it also requires new capabilities and fresh thinking.

This includes new digital tools for customers and frontline associates, as well as back-end software and platform work that benefits the entire enterprise. The use of data, algorithms, advanced forecasting capabilities – and more – is of extreme strategic significance.

We will put these pieces together in a way no one else can.

Ultimately, customers don’t care about what channel they’re shopping in, or about how we deliver them a product or service. They simply know they’re shopping with Walmart.

Q: What is Walmart already doing to make progress against this seamless shopping strategy?

A: To help our associates succeed and better serve our customers, we’ve made big changes – including investing approximately $2.7 billion over two years in higher wages, education and training to make Walmart U.S. a better place to work and shop. We’re already seeing positive results: our fourth quarter of fiscal 2016 marked six consecutive quarters of positive comps and five straight quarters of positive traffic at Walmart U.S. Everything we’re doing in omnichannel depends on customers having great interactions with us in our stores.

We're also accelerating e-commerce and technology advances globally. We expanded Online Grocery shopping to new markets, ramped up in-store and in-club pickup, fully acquired the Chinese online retailer Yihaodian, and began to add new mobile services such as Walmart Pay. We developed a technology platform that we can scale across the business. We improved our fulfillment capabilities with new centers that are helping us get orders to customers’ doors faster and more efficiently.

Q: It’s clear what these strategic investments mean for customers. How will they affect associates and the communities where Walmart operates?

A: As we work to win with our customers, we will also create a great place to work. We will create tremendous opportunities for people from all walks of life, with all kinds of skill sets and education levels. We’re striving to create a true meritocracy. No matter where you start from or what your unique and special characteristics are, you can fulfill your potential here. We believe in opportunity and that hard work, dedication and talent should be rewarded.

We will also use our size, mindset and policies and help make the world a better place. We create opportunity throughout our global supply chain – on farms and in factories, by buying more from women-owned businesses, by hiring veterans and by strengthening the retail industry workforce.

We work to be more sustainable, both in our own operations and in our supply chain. We have three big goals: creating zero waste, running on 100 percent renewable energy and selling products that sustain people and the environment. And we give back to the communities we serve – supporting American manufacturing, preparing for and responding to natural disasters and fighting hunger.

Q: What does this growth plan mean for investors?

A: We will win with a differentiated, disruptive strategy and a foundation of operational excellence. As we do, we believe shareholders will benefit by receiving above-average returns.

Although this will be another year of foundational investments, we believe we will soon be growing faster than the retail market. We are a growth company; we just happen to be a large one.

The road ahead will not always be easy, but by being customer focused, hungry, fast and accountable, we will win and have a good time doing it.

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