Walmart Shareholders' Meeting 2008
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
I was really moved by what our Chairman said earlier this morning, weren’t you?
What a wonderful tribute to every associate around the world … that Sam would be proud of your Walmart.
Thank you, Rob.
While Rob was giving his talk … I was wondering if Sam ever could have imagined a day when oil would cost $130 a barrel. Or when milk would cost $4 a gallon?
I don’t know.
But isn’t it reassuring that we have the same values, the same culture, and the same mission that we had during Sam’s lifetime … and that this is the foundation of our success today?
It is a real tribute to the strength of our company and, above all, our people.
Two years ago, I stood before you and talked about the transformation underway at Walmart.
I said it was real for our business … that it was touching the lives of our customers and associates … and that we were making a positive difference in our communities.
Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the progress of our transformation and just how far we have come.
We have made some significant changes in each of our core business units.
And as you heard from Mike, Doug, Eduardo and Tom, we are seeing some great results.
At Sam’s Club, it is great to see a much deeper understanding of our members.
We aren’t just providing merchandise to our members … we are providing solutions for their businesses and their lives.
This progress is a credit to our outstanding leadership team at Sam’s Club.
In International, we are leveraging our formats and best practices from country to country.
Our focus on local strategies is driving strong sales across the chain.
And I believe we have the most talented group of country presidents in the history of our company.
Let me also say directly to our Chinese associates … the entire Walmart family has felt great sorrow about the hardship caused by the earthquake last month.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you, your families and all the Chinese people during this difficult time.
In U.S. Stores, we also have a group of leaders that are best-in-class in the industry.
We are doing a much better job of buying what our customers want and presenting it in our stores so that customers want to buy it.
This has made a big difference.
I am out there walking stores every week. Not only do they look better … they feel better and are friendlier too.
And when it comes to our underlying business, our performance has been outstanding.
Our capital efficiency model is working. In fact, Walmart led the retail industry last year in reducing capital spending and investing in existing stores.
We are continuing to focus on delivering strong free cash flow. We believe this is an important financial measure for evaluating our performance.
We also delivered record returns to our shareholders last year through more than $11 billion in share repurchases and dividends.
Investors like what they see in our underlying business, and, as you probably noticed, that is reflected in our share price.
All of this success feels good, doesn’t it? You bet it does.
But I think there is something even more meaningful, powerful and lasting that should also make us feel good.
That is our deeper understanding of “Saving People Money So They Can Live Better.”
These are not just empty words written into a mission statement or tacked onto the end of a television ad.
They are embedded in our business.
They live in our culture.
They touch everything we touch as a company -- our customers, our shareholders, our associates, our communities.
And by bringing together “Save Money” and “Live Better" we unlock the full potential of Walmart.
We realize the greater value of value.
We make everyday shopping decisions more meaningful to people’s everyday lives and lifelong dreams.
And we strengthen our ability not only to do well as a business … but also to do good in the world.
So as “Saving Money” has always been a part of who we are … “Living Better” is now a real part of our company too.
That connection … and our understanding of its potential … is making the difference between the great company we have always been … and the even better Walmart we are today.
The fact is the biggest problems out there today are problems that our customers and members struggle with more than most.
There are tens of millions of people all around the world who really need and depend on your Walmart.
Rising oil and gas prices are squeezing family budgets.
Tighter credit markets are making loans less available and more expensive for small businesses.
Health care costs are eating up more and more money from our customers’ pockets.
Food inflation is making it harder for working parents to put a good and healthy meal on the kitchen table.
During difficult times in the past, Walmart has been there for our customers and our members.
But I think we are there for them now more than ever before.
And the reason for that goes back to the strength of connecting “Live Better” to “Save Money.”
It is how we are saving people money … what those savings really mean to people’s lives … and how together we make a difference in the world and in our common future.
Let me just give you a couple of examples of the difference we are making.
Walmart customers are able to cope with higher energy costs because we are helping them stretch their money on everyday needs.
But we are also helping customers save money on products that reduce their energy bills to begin with.
And even more … we are helping the environment in the process.
What better way to deliver on the promise of “Living Better?”
One product that we have highlighted is the compact fluorescent light bulb.
Since announcing our goal to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs in November 2006, we have actually sold 192 million.
Over the life of the product, these bulbs will save our customers nearly $6 billion and keep the equivalent of three coal-fired power plants off the electrical grid.
Isn’t that amazing?
Only your Walmart can do this.
Another example is our $4 prescription program.
Just last month, we made another push to save our customers money where they desperately need it.
We said that we would offer a 90-day supply of certain medicines for just $10 … a 17% savings on top of the already low price.
We also added to the list of eligible prescriptions and announced a new $4 over-the-counter program.
Since launching $4 prescriptions about 20 months ago, we have saved our customers more than $1.1 billion in three countries.
That is a remarkable number.
And we should all be proud of that.
But let me tell you what else we should be proud of…
Seniors who no longer have to split pills and instead can take their medicines as prescribed.
Women who can now afford medicines that treat diseases that uniquely affect them … like osteoporosis and breast cancer.
Single parents who don’t have to choose between purchasing their own medicines and purchasing medicines for their children.
We can also be proud of the fact that patients are now pro-actively talking with their doctors about generics -- a longstanding goal of policy-makers as a way to lower prescription drug costs.
By saving people money on their prescriptions, we have changed the pharmaceutical industry -- and the delivery of health care -- forever.
We have helped millions of people live better, healthier and fuller lives.
And we have begun to play a meaningful role in the health care debate.
Again … only your Walmart can do this.
I know you have seen what your Walmart can do … because you have done it.
And people outside your company are seeing it too.
When I travel to Washington or London or Mexico City, and I meet with government leaders, the conversations have changed.
They want to know about our leadership on sustainability and health care.
Or what we see in the economy, and how that is affecting our customers.
And when they have suggestions for us, we are listening.
But it is clear that today people look at Walmart as a solution.
And we want to be seen that way. We want to act that way.
You have heard me talk today and in the past about the challenges facing our customers in their everyday lives.
Right now in the U.S., we are in the middle of one of the most exciting Presidential campaigns in recent history.
There has already been a lot of debate and discussion about how to address issues like the soaring price of gas or our broken health care system.
And there will be more.
In the months ahead, the candidates are going to pay very close attention to voters who care the most about pocketbook issues.
The fact is those are Walmart customers.
We see it in our stores every day … working men and women living paycheck to paycheck … and making more and more difficult decisions.
We serve millions of customers like this every week in the U.S.
We understand them.
And we know they are clamoring for solutions to the challenges in their everyday lives.
Over the last few years, I believe we have proven that Walmart can make a difference.
I also hope that we have opened people’s eyes to a new way of solving problems in this country.
It is the idea that no single institution can solve our biggest problems alone.
It is the courage to find common ground with people and groups who you may disagree with … and who may disagree with you.
It is the commitment to a cause that is greater than yourself and yet entirely consistent with your core.
We all have to work together -- businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations and, yes, individual people too.
Regardless of who wins the election in November -- and what party they are from -- we stand ready to work with the new President and the next Congress.
We believe we can be an effective partner … and leaders who want to get things done will seek Walmart as a partner.
It would be easy to take comfort in the success we have had in our business and the larger role we are now playing in the world.
If you know that something works, why not just replicate it and replicate it and replicate it?
Well … we have done that before. For several years, we did what we knew worked. And we did it very well.
We grew beyond expectations. Our stock price went up. And we felt good about it. And we had every right to.
But in time, the world changed. People’s expectations of us -- and of corporations in general -- changed. And we found ourselves playing catch up.
We can never let that happen again. Not only must we never fall behind … we must always push ourselves to stay ahead.
We must continue to ask fundamental questions that alter perspectives and ultimately behavior.
Questions like …
How do you persuade someone in a successful organization that real change is needed and can be achieved in a way that is consistent with their core beliefs?
How do you get a leadership team to step back and ask what success means not just in their own business, but in the larger context of the company as a whole?
How do you take the trends of the future and put them into the business, so a company is relevant to today’s consumers and well positioned for tomorrow’s consumers?
These are not easy questions to ask. They are not easy questions to answer.
But we have to keep asking them. And when necessary, make difficult decisions.
By bringing together “Save Money” and “Live Better” … what a wonderful opportunity we now have for our business and for our world.
Your Walmart has an opportunity to be a leader in the retail industry for more ethical and environmentally friendly sourcing.
Your Walmart can play a role in reducing the world’s dependence on oil and other high-carbon sources of energy.
Your Walmart can bring even greater value to even more customers who need and deserve to save on everyday needs.
And there are things we need to do inside our company -- such as making your Walmart more diverse and creating a more inclusive environment.
I am confident that if we put diversity and inclusion into our business and really commit to it, we can make real progress.
I am determined that Walmart will do this. It is essential to attracting and keeping the best possible people and staying relevant to our customers.
These are the things that your Walmart can take on now.
But I also urge you to think about what we can do -- and what the world will expect us to do -- in the future.
There are very clear trends that the retail industry and the world will have to confront -- the aging of the global population, a multi-polar balance of power, income inequality, the disruptive power of technology, increased demand for energy … to name a few.
Think about these trends, the strengths of your Walmart and our model of “Saving Money” and “Living Better.”
We have the best global footprint to serve millions worldwide who will want the opportunity to lift themselves up into the middle class.
Our leadership in sustainability will give customers and suppliers everywhere the ability to be more energy efficient and therefore more energy independent.
An older global population will need us to help them stretch their money and maintain their quality of life while living on a fixed income.
Here’s the bottom line for our business and the larger role we can play … your Walmart is uniquely positioned to succeed not just in this economy, but in these times.
And among retailers … we are the best positioned to lead in the world of tomorrow.
So how do we continue to turn our position of strength into leadership for the future?
I want to repeat a quote from Sam that I shared on this stage two years ago: “You can’t just keep doing what works one time. Everything around you is always changing. To succeed, stay out in front of that change.”
The world has become too complex and changes too rapidly for a company of our size to just replicate.
I am not saying that we have to constantly reinvent ourselves. We do not. And we should not.
We have a culture, a mission and core values that are timeless and universal.
But we have to constantly look at how we apply those things to the changing world around us.
The challenge ahead is that we must continue to challenge ourselves.
I am confident that your Walmart will continue to transform. And I am confident we will continue to succeed.
Because I know not only what you, our associates, are capable of doing … I have seen what you have done.
You inspire me every day. And you make me so proud.
International is such a tremendous opportunity. You are going to be an even bigger part of this company.
Some may wonder whether our model and mission can work everywhere we operate.
Let me say as clearly as I can … It does work.
It is working in markets as different from each other as Canada, Argentina and China.
And it can work in places where we do not have stores or are just opening them … like Russia and India.
In U.S. Stores, we also have plenty of opportunity to grow and get even better at our core business -- whether it is our merchandise or our stores.
I am excited to see your progress every time I walk the aisles, and I cannot wait to see what is ahead.
At Sam’s, I don’t know if there has ever been a time when both business and Advantage members needed you more.
I am so pleased that you are proving your value to them in this challenging economy.
And let’s not forget that we have an extraordinarily strong backbone in logistics, systems and financial controls.
These essential functions underlie our entire business and enable our company to succeed.
I know that I have asked a lot of you today.
But I know you can handle these responsibilities and exceed the expectations of our customers, our shareholders, our communities, and even those we set for ourselves.
So to close … we have given a lot of ovations today. And they have all been well deserved.
But I would like to add my personal thanks to those who deserve it most … the field associates who travelled here from all around the world, their fellow associates back at home, as well as those in the Home Office.
This is your Walmart.
This is your time.
And I know -- as we look to the future -- you will always work to build a better Walmart for your world.