Community

A Hope-Filled Homecoming in New Orleans

Nine years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans East community, leaving a path of devastation in its wake. Our Walmart store was just one of the many buildings destroyed.

After the storm, we promised to reopen our doors in the area, and as of June 11, I’m proud to be able to say that we’ve followed through.

For many, Walmart is a staple of everyday routine: grabbing groceries, crossing items off a shopping list. But for New Orleanians, this new supercenter is a symbol of recovery and opportunity. It will bring much-needed retail to the particularly hard-hit New Orleans East and will act as a catalyst for growth in the area.

When we opened the hiring center for this Walmart, more than 3,600 applications were submitted. By investing in this new store, Walmart has brought more than 400 new jobs to the area, and 65% of the store’s associates are residents of New Orleans East.

Twenty-five of the associates employed at this new store worked in the East prior to Hurricane Katrina and are finally returning to work in their community, nearly a decade after their lives were changed forever.

Looking at the crowd gathered to celebrate the reopening a few weeks ago, I was reminded of a simple fact about New Orleanians: Whatever comes their way, they get back up.

We have worked hard to rebuild this store for our customers, and we are proud to once again be a part of this strong, vibrant community.

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Innovation

This Store is Helping Reimagine the Supercenter

Last year, supercenter #5260 in Rogers, Arkansas, got a facelift. Added into the refreshed look were several new approaches to technologies, services, products and layouts, which are currently being tested with customers. Early reports are positive, but it’s too soon to tell what’s working and what isn’t. What’s clear: Things that seem straightforward could show up in new stores or remodels. Store 5260 is simply the first step toward the supercenter of the future, but it’s critical to informing upcoming tests.

Room to Play: The electronics and entertainment areas have a sleek, modern look that customers say feels very welcoming and on-trend. “One of the things that we noticed early on as people walk by electronics is that they stop and look, and then they get drawn in," said Sherry Curtis-Swenson, the store’s manager.

A New Angle on Fresh: A reorganization (along with improved sight lines and angled aisles) puts berries — a growing category — in the front of the department. Bananas, already a huge draw, are toward the back to help lead customers through. Purple signage in Fresh and throughout the store connects to an increase in organic products.

Car Care, Customer Care: Along with new digital menu boards and signage in automotive, there’s a comfortable customer waiting area — furnished with items from Walmart.com. Customers can watch TV, enjoy a coffee, charge their phones, and see their cars being serviced.

Pickup, Up Front: In-Store Pickup and Walmart Services share space up front at Store 5260. It’s clearly marked so customers can find it and get their orders quickly.

Check Out Your Way: There are multiple options for checkout. Scan & Go supplies a wand so customers can scan items as they’re shopping. Hybrid registers can be self-service or manned by associates, depending on the need. And high-velocity checkouts — where a cashier scans items while the customer moves through the line to pay — are more than three times faster than conventional checkouts.

One-Stop Baby Shop: The new baby department combines it all in one space. There’s even a stroller garage for hands-on tryouts. “Customers love being able to move the strollers around,” Sherry said.

Local Eats: A local food truck operator, Big Rub BBQ, has restaurant space in the store, with lots of glass and natural light — and even seating on an outdoor patio! 

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared in Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates.

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Community

How Associates Are Helping with Relief in Flint

This week, Walmart joined with Coca-Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo to provide clean water to more than 10,000 public school students in Flint, Michigan. But months before, many local associates were already jumping in to help. Recently, we learned more about how from Beth Harris, store manager at Walmart #1928 in Flint, and Melton Wright, co-manager at store #3726 in Grand Blanc, Michigan, a community less than 10 miles away.

How have you seen this crisis affect your store, and why was it important to your team to take action?

Beth Harris: Right from the beginning, we’ve had an increase in associates and customers who’ve needed quality water, affordable water and affordable ways to filter their water. We thought it was important for them to know they had someone they could trust to take care of their needs. Our associates are proud to be a part of the effort to help our friends and neighbors.

Your store has stepped in not only with water distribution, but also with educating people on water filters and proper use. Can you tell us more?

Beth Harris: One of the steps we took was to educate ourselves so we could spread that knowledge. Many questions were coming in, so we did do some additional training for our associates, and our pharmacy and hardware department so we could pass that along to the customers.

Melton Wright: Here in the Flint store, they’ve been training their associates to know how the water filters work, how to set them up in your homes, how to hook them up to the faucets, and so that education is being given to the customer as they come in. That’s a huge impact because up until this point, who really used water filters in that respect? What I mean is that there have always been families who bought them because they wanted them as added features in their homes, but here, it’s really a necessity. Being able to help folks in that respect is a huge step, and Walmart is a big part of that.

You’re both obviously local residents. Can you tell us how this crisis has affected you personally?

Melton Wright: I’m a Flint resident and have been for most of my life. I know the city has gone through a number of different transformations, but this one here really tops it all in the sense that it’s impacting households. People used to just walk up to their sinks and pour water out, but now you have the issue of not knowing whether it’s going to affect you unfavorably. So that impact is a personal one. The positive piece of that is that you have organizations like Walmart stepping in to help with the situation. So I feel good about that, but day in and day out, dealing with the water is definitely a big issue.

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Business

Hello, Nicaragua! Welcoming Walmart to Managua

My team ended 2015 in a big way. After months of hard work, we opened the first Walmart store in Nicaragua, offering our everyday low prices on a wide assortment of 40,000 products – a very significant value proposition for the Nicaraguan market. We know this to be true because people are welcoming us with open arms.

The day we opened, literally hundreds of enthusiastic people attended the grand opening of our supercenter in Managua, ready to save money on everything from clothes, electronics and paint to toys, appliances and groceries. Watching the excitement and knowing that this store is making a difference for these people reminded me once again of our mission to help people live better by simply paying less for the things they need.

This is a $17 million investment in a modern, comfortable store of 5,890 square meters (over 63,000 square feet) that created 150 direct jobs (the associates that will work in the supercenter) and 1,575 estimated indirect jobs (jobs as a result of the supercenter such as cleaning crews and suppliers). And, because we strongly encourage the growth of local businesses, a great majority of our assortment comes from small and medium-sized Nicaraguan suppliers.   

Walmart operates 87 stores in Nicaragua under other formats like Palí (discount), Maxi Palí (warehouse) and La Union (supermarket), but this is the first Walmart-branded location. We are now offering the distinctive standard of service, price and assortment through our iconic Walmart supercenter. And the excitement we’ve seen is definitely our major reward. 

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U.S. Manufacturing

The Dish on Gumbaya: A Foodie Follows a Dream

When I moved from Michigan to Myrtle Beach, S.C., five years ago, it marked a new beginning for me. I was stepping away from 20 years in the insurance business, into a warmer climate and yearning to return to my culinary roots.

When I was growing up, my family owned a food processing plant. I was running a restaurant up north by the time I was 19. I’ve always been curious about flavors and what’s out there. Whenever I travel, I’m that guy who only eats local cuisine. And when I began digging into my new surroundings, I discovered the history of gumbo in the U.S. – which people naturally associate with Louisiana – can actually be traced back to South Carolina in the 1600s.

The first recipe I developed when I set foot in Myrtle Beach was my own gumbo. There were so many beautiful ingredients down here – fresh shrimp, whitefish, Andouille sausage, okra – and when I dipped my spoon into that first bowl, I had a moment. I thought, “This is it. I’ve really got something here.”

I knew this was a recipe that would make South Carolina proud. My gumbo immediately started winning people over at local farmers markets and festivals. I looked into opportunities to get my product on the market, from selling to local restaurants to partnering with a delivery service in the area. But the day the district manager at our local Walmart gave me 15 minutes of his time – that was the day everything changed.

That was Dec. 17, 2013. When I walked out 45 minutes later, it was with the understanding we had a deal. By May 2015, my Carolina Gumbaya was being sold in the frozen section of 17 Walmart stores in South Carolina. Today, that’s grown to 137 Walmart stores in five states, including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

It really has been an amazing experience, to see so many people embrace this recipe I created in the kitchen of my own home. But when people ask me if it has taken me by surprise, I have to tell them, “Honestly, no.”

Frozen food has come a long way in recent years. Carolina Gumbaya – a name drawn from the words gumbo and jambalaya – isn’t packed with fillers and preservatives. The label doesn’t have words you can’t pronounce. There are 12 whole, wild-caught shrimp in every one-quart container. And the blonde roux I developed, along with my secret spices, are a few of the differentiating factors.

Turn on any food channel or open a food publication and you’re going to hear about the flavor of the South. It’s the South’s time to shine on the culinary stage – so products like mine have an opportunity to spread across the country. Along the way, Walmart’s commitment to domestic manufacturing is opening the door for small entrepreneurs like my business partner, Laura Spencer, and me. Products like Carolina Gumbaya are helping create jobs at growing U.S.-based companies like Duke Food Productions, the company who helps produce our product. These kinds of stories are a win-win for everyone. And we’re just getting started.

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