Walmart’s Confident Future: A Great Plan and Great People

Walmart Shareholders' Meeting 2011

By Bill Simon, President & CEO, Walmart U.S.

June 03, 2011

Walmart Shareholders' Meeting 2011

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me appreciate Store Manager, Andy Martin, from Store 59 and all of the associates from Joplin, Missouri.

You have been through so much these last few weeks.  Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.  

As most of you probably know, this is my first time at this meeting as CEO of Walmart U.S.  It’s an honor to be here with you today.  I’m proud to represent the 1.4 million U.S. associates who make Walmart…Walmart.

We’ve made a lot of progress in the last 11 months. We’re seeing it in our stores.  And I’m confident that while we have a long way to go we’re on the right track.

Why am I so confident?

We have the right plan.

We have the right people -- our associates, who have an inseparable bond with our communities.

And those very people who own the plan, who own that bond, our associates, tell us the plan is working!

So, let’s get to it.  We are driving some great progress. Two-thirds of our business is showing positive comps.  Our results in food and consumables are quite good.  Our net sales increased in the first quarter to $62.7 billion!

And while sales aren’t where we want them to be…not what they will be…I can assure you the entire U.S. organization is working on growing comp sales!

Our plan is actually pretty straightforward.  Everyday low price.  EDLP.  Everyday low cost. EDLC.  And the broadest assortment of great merchandise.

It’s essentially the foundation Sam Walton provided nearly 50 years ago.

As for EDLP, it’s all about building trust with our customer by never letting them down on price.  Helping people save money so they can live better.  All the time.  Every time.

So what does that mean?  It means we will not play the high/low game.

And our customers are responding, recognizing Walmart as a one-stop destination where they depend on getting low prices and a broad assortment of great merchandise every day.

Next... EDLC.  Every day low cost is what drives every day low price.  One cannot exist without the other.  That’s Walmart.  That’s who we are.

For example, over the last five years, the logistics team has delivered a 65% improvement in productivity by re-working our truck fleet’s loading and routing!  Those are savings that we can pass back to our customers!

As for assortment, it’s pretty simple.  Our customers can’t buy it if we don’t sell it.  And if we don’t sell it they go somewhere else to buy it.

So we are adding back thousands of items.  As of May, we’ve added back 8,500 items!  Even in a small category like air freshener, where we simply added back the opening price point item sales are up 88%.

And in our effort to remind our customers that Walmart always has low prices and a broad assortment, we’re putting items back in Action Alley!

Encouraging progress.  But we still have a lot of work to do and it will take some time.  But I have no doubt we are moving in the right direction.

We are also focused on growth, opening new supercenters, which drive the best returns.  And we are opening new, smaller formats like Walmart Market and Walmart Express to give under-served urban and rural markets access to every day low price.

So that’s a re-cap of our plan and our progress.  All very important.  And we will deliver. 

Now, I’d like to give you a little more context for why I am so confident.  It’s not just our plan.  There’s something else.  Something no other company has: our people, and their connection to their communities.

Over the past seven weeks, the heartland of our country…the heartland of our customer…has been battered and beaten by devastating storms and floods.  Our associates, customers and communities have lost so much.

From Tuscaloosa to Joplin, our communities are suffering.  It’s so incredibly difficult. 

But you know what?  We were there.  And I don’t mean Walmart, the corporation; I mean Walmart the people. 

Our associates were there.  Not because they were told to do so.  Not because of any corporate initiative.  But because a Walmart associate is first and foremost a member of their community.

And it’s that inseparable bond between our associates, customers and communities that will continue to drive our success.

In Joplin, for example, Andy, the Store Manager you met earlier, decided to review his store’s safety plan after the tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa.  He got on the phone with the structural engineers and reviewed the store blueprints, and he came up with a better plan.  Then, he made sure that each and every associate knew how to execute that plan.

And it’s a good thing.  You see, Andy was off the day the storm hit.  But the associates knew what to do.  They ran the plan.  The plan that ultimately saved more than 200 lives.

You see, the story of Joplin is important because not only does it capture the heroism of our associates, but it brings to life the bond we have with our communities.

It makes the point that our associates are advocates for our customers…for their communities.  On calm days and on stormy days.  Whether it’s bringing back items their customers want.  Or, in this case, saving lives.

Our people do what needs to be done for our customers!

They know better than anyone what’s going to work.  And we’re listening.

They told us our customers wanted fabrics back.  We listened.  We’re putting it back.  And it’s working.

They told us our customers wanted plus sizes back.  We listened.  We’re putting it back.  And it’s working.

I’ve been to so many stores in the past 2 months where associates have said, “Thank you for putting Action Alley back.  It’s working.”

Now sure, it’s going to take time for all of this great momentum to show up in our results.  I know there will be challenges and bumps along the road.  And I can’t predict the weather or the economy.

But let me tell you why I’m so confident. 

We have the plan.  Every day low price.  Every day low cost.  And the broadest assortment of great merchandise.

While we are just beginning to see the progress on our P&L, our people, who own that bond with our customers, they are telling us we’re on the right road.

As our communities recover, from storms…from unemployment…we will be there.  With them.  All the way. 

In difficult times like Joplin.  And every day, like when we add back their favorite pickles.

That’s why I am so confident.  We have a lot to look forward to. 

Get ready.  Here we come.

Thank you.