News Community Meet the ‘Friendliest Walmart in the U.S.’

Meet the ‘Friendliest Walmart in the U.S.’

Right in the heart of the Lone Star State, there’s a town of about 4,000 residents that bills itself as “The Greatest Little Town in Texas.”

Two associates stand together in coat department

On the southwestern side of Ballinger, you’ll find Store 1078. If you’re just driving by, the 29,909-square-foot discount store looks small. Stop and go into the store, however, and you’ll find big hearts at work.

Bump into any of the associates who work here, and you’re sure to get a smile, a friendly greeting, and an offer to help. Bottom line: These associates really are happy to see you.

“We’re small, but we’re mighty,” laughed Store Manager Ellen Godwin. “You know, dynamite comes in small packages!”

That’s especially true during the holidays: Walmart customer survey data for the holiday season over the past seven years puts Store 1078 at the top of the list in the U.S. for friendliness. That’s right: During the time of year when stores are busiest and customers are most stressed, the associates here make their store the “Friendliest Walmart in the U.S.” What’s their secret? It all boils down to five ideas.

Walmart associate and customer in fabric department

A store is more than a place to buy things.

“A physical store is just a shell,” said Brenda Turney, who has been with Store 1078, in invoice backup and support, since the day it opened 28 years ago. “What makes our store so happy and friendly are the people inside it — the associates and the customers.” Angela Martinez, a 19-year associate and the lead pharmacy technician at the store, agreed, adding that the year-round friendliness found at Store 1078 stems from their place in their community. “We’re a place where people come to celebrate, to mourn, to connect, and to support,” she explained. “It’s a home, and we are—all of us—a family. Family takes care of family.”

A reputation for helping can earn trust.

Associates at Store 1078 will merrily put together a bicycle purchased by a mom with no time for DIY, so it can still go under the Christmas tree. They’ll walk the aisles of the store with customers who have Christmas lists in hand, filling up carts and easing some of the stress inherent in holiday shopping.

Happiness is about meeting customers’ needs — and a little more.

Ashlee Quiroga, department manager over softlines, often shops for customers who are elderly or disabled, taking orders over the phone and walking their bags out to waiting cars. And when Black Friday rolls around, you can find 25-year associate Penny Pritchard, personnel manager and training coordinator, serving beverages to customers waiting in line to check out.

Be care-driven versus task-driven.

“It’s easy to be very task-driven in retail,” Ellen said. “But at this store, we try to slow down and realize what our primary goal is: to take care of the customer, to take care of our own. We do it during the holidays, absolutely, and our “Friendly” score means that maybe it’s felt more then. But really, we do it every day.”

A Walmart associate an a customer pose together in front a banking display

The basics are only the baseline.

“We don’t tend to have the selection that the Supercenters do,” said Sharon Nixon, assistant manager and a 28-year associate, about the smaller square footage of Store 1078. “But we do have exactly what most folks need—especially during the holidays: kind, caring attention. It’s really the easiest thing to give, isn’t it?”

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates.