Says Retailer Will Keep New Customers When Economy Improves
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark., June 5, 2009 -- Today Walmart President and CEO Mike Duke told more than 16,000 people at the company’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting that the company has had strong performance and that it will “seize the moment” to make further strides with its business and help people save money and live better around the world.
“This is not a time to slow down. This is not a time to take comfort in our success. This is Walmart’s time to look to the future and seize the opportunity to truly lead around the world,” said Duke. “We must broaden and accelerate what we’re already doing well. And where we can do better, we will innovate.”
Over the past few years, the company has made significant gains with customers by improving the store experience, offering better merchandise presentations, strengthening international formats and re-emphasizing price leadership. Duke said the improvements that have led to the company’s strong performance are permanent and sustainable. He said he believes that’s important because customers are not going back in terms of their mindset.
“Our customers will stay with us when this economy turns around and they have more discretionary money to spend. We are building long-term loyalty to Walmart,” said Duke. “I believe the economic crisis has brought a fundamental shift in consumer attitudes and behavior. There is a ‘new normal,’ in which people want to save money and are getting smarter about saving money.”
Duke highlighted Walmart’s success in the past fiscal year with earnings up 6 percent to $3.35 per share, $7.3 billion returned to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases, and worldwide sales surpassing $400 billion for the first time. Duke also said that the strength of the company’s first quarter performance was very good relative to competitors.
“We continue to outperform the market. We have a strong balance sheet and great access to capital markets. We also increased our annual dividend by 15 percent. And this is at a time when a record number of companies decreased or even eliminated their dividends,” Duke said. “Shareholders are really seeing this company’s culture of sound financial management pay off. You’re also seeing the depth and talent of our leadership team.”
The Walmart CEO also broadly outlined enhanced training and development of the company’s global workforce of nearly 2.2 million associates. “Many of our associates build careers at Walmart -- taking on new roles and growing and developing with us. And for many associates, a Walmart job is their first job,” Duke said. “We can strengthen the training and educational opportunities that all associates receive while working at Walmart. We can offer a clearer career path to achievement. And if we do that, we will provide our associates with an even stronger foundation for their futures.”
Duke reiterated Walmart’s commitment to the “Live Better” part of the company’s mission and continuing to help solve the big issues facing the world. “We are passionate about helping our customers live better. And I think we’ve set an example that shows business can be trusted. Customers and elected officials recognize and appreciate that leadership,” Duke said. “Your Walmart will broaden and accelerate our commitment to associates, to sustainability, to responsible sourcing. Your Walmart will lead.”
Having been elected by the Board of Directors to his new post in November, this was Duke’s first address at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting as president and CEO. He closed his remarks by saying, “I am so proud to have been selected to lead this great company and work shoulder to shoulder with you. I commit to all of you, as your CEO, that I will serve you with trust and integrity. I commit to you that I will honor our culture and the legacy of Sam Walton. And I promise you always my personal best, and I will require your personal best, so that together we can seize this moment, and we can be the best Walmart that we can be.”
About Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) serves customers and members more than 200 million times per week at more than 7,900 retail units under 55 different banners in 15 countries. With fiscal year 2009 sales of $401 billion, Walmart employs almost 2.2 million associates worldwide. A leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity, Walmart ranked first among retailers in Fortune Magazine’s 2009 Most Admired Companies survey. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting www.walmartstores.com. Online merchandise sales are available at www.walmart.com and www.samsclub.com.