Opportunity

Walmart Keeps its Military Family Promise

Last summer, I made the commitment of my life: I got married. Because my husband is in the military, I knew that commitment meant we could move far – and potentially often. But what did it mean for my career?

I was pleased to learn – but not surprised – that my company is just as committed to military spouses as they are to active service members and veterans.

Through Walmart’s Military Family Promise, this week, I’ll transition from a Beaverton, Ore., Neighborhood Market to a Supercenter in Jerome, Idaho – a town within 30 minutes of where my husband, Ryan, is serving his first duty station as a pharmacy tech in the Air Force. When we were waiting to find out where he would be transferred, he was worried about me keeping my job. But I wasn’t. I’ve always known that my company would support me. And, I told him, it only helps that Walmart has locations all over the country.

The Promise means the company guarantees a job at a nearby store or club for all military personnel and their spouses who are employed by Walmart but need to move because they’ve been transferred by the military. As soon as I mentioned my needs to my supervisor, my management team had me placed in the Jerome store as an assistant manager within a day.

When I started with Walmart, I saw my job as just a way to earn extra money while going to school. Along the way, I fell in love with it. I listened to my leaders who’ve told me since the beginning that, here, you can pretty much do anything. I learned everything I could, and I’ve worked my way up from a stocker to the assistant manager title I hold now.

While I was falling in love with Walmart, I fell in love with Ryan, who started working for my store right as I was leaving for the manager training program. We kept in touch and got married a few months later.

I am dedicated to my career at Walmart, so it’s encouraging to know that Walmart is just as dedicated to supporting me while my husband serves.

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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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Opportunity

How Honeybees Landed Me a Career in Online Grocery

For a lot of people, there’s nothing like getting lost in a good book. Personally, I’ve always had a thing for maps.

There’s something about being able to see specific locations and everything in between, mapped out across a landscape. Ever since I was a little girl, that’s been my happy place. As the years passed, that fascination led me to Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where I studied – and mapped – the patterns of migratory birds and foraging dynamics of honeybee colonies.

The one thing I’d never mapped out was the correlation between movements of non-human species and my ability to play an instrumental role in Walmart’s growing online grocery business. But it happened.

In addition to growing a network of honeybee hives and bee enthusiasts in the Bay Area for the past three years, I’ve begun using my doctorate in geographic information systems to help Walmart map its online grocery footprint. Whether it’s bees foraging for nectar, or humans trying to get their groceries, the bottom line is migratory patterns are influenced by geographic spaces. As a geospatial analyst, I plot data on a series of very detailed maps, rather than into spreadsheets. That’s always helped me visualize the whole story – and it’s helping Walmart see the bigger picture today.

I’m studying and plotting the similarities and differences in each of the markets we serve. I’m interested in how topography, density and other factors determine how we can serve customers in each market. I look at geographic trends to help make informed decisions on where we’ve launched the service, and how our presence will impact patterns over time.

The whole process is very scientific – and what’s especially exciting to me is the access to data. While conducting ecological studies on the migratory and foraging patterns of birds, I had to gather every ounce of data on my own. Sometimes, that meant spending an entire year to gather a few specific pieces of information. Here, I have access to a mix of data that’s already there. My job is to put it into a framework and come up with a conclusion. It's unlike anything I’ve been a part of before.

As Walmart continues to expand its online grocery service – and as we experiment with new capabilities – geospatial mapping will continue to play a prominent role. And that’s my happy place.

Editor’s Note: You can read more about Associate Heather Gamper in this recent article, “7 Fortune 500 Jobs That Seem Too Good to Be True.”

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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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