Update: Wal-Mart Executives Focus On Small Stores, Online

by Marty Cook  on Friday, Jun. 6, 2014 1:30 pm  

Bill Simon, speaking at Friday's Wal-Mart annual meeting in Fayetteville.

Retail shoppers want a different way to shop, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville is doing its best to meet the new, technologically driven demand.

That was the message from Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon in his address at the company’s annual meeting Friday at the University of Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena. The festivities, which capped off a week of activities, included musical performances by Pharrell, Robin Thicke, Florida Georgia Line, Sarah McLachlan and Aloe Blacc and was hosted by singer Harry Connick Jr. 

About 14,000 Wal-Mart employees were in northwest Arkansas for the week’s events.

Friday’s meeting included its share of business. Executives reported unofficial voting results that showed shareholders re-elected 14 directors to its board and rejected three shareholder proposals.

The proposals would have required an independent chairman of the board, documentation of the company’s lobbying expenditures, and documentation of the company’s recoupment of executive pay, called “clawbacks,” in which companies recoup pay from executives who engage in misconduct.

While Wal-Mart has seen U.S. same-stores sales, a key metric for retailers, decrease for five straight quarters, McMillon said Friday that the company remains strong and has the resources to improve.

To do so, McMillon said the company will have to adapt to a new marketplace, where shoppers increasingly turn to the convenience of online shopping. Throughout the week, Wal-Mart executives spoke of their efforts to tie the company’s growing e-commerce division with its U.S., international and Sam’s Club divisions.

“There are so many new ways to serve our customers,” McMillon said. “We must be stronger merchants, all of us together. That’s what Sam Walton did, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

McMillon said mobile technology has changed the fabric of retail, with people spending more time on devices like smartphones and tablets than they do watching television. McMillon said many shoppers want to shop on their time.

“We are going to make that possible,” McMillon said. “Customers will increasingly expect and require the best of both worlds; the excitement and immediacy of shopping at a store and the freedom to shop whenever they want and get merchandise the way they like. They want an experience that seamlessly adapts to their life. All this change is a good thing.”

Perspective

Established stores in the U.S. make up about 60 percent of Wal-Mart’s total sales. For the first quarter, Wal-Mart reported revenue of $114.6 billion, up 1 percent from the same quarter a year ago. But profit fell from $3.78 billion to $3.59 billion.

 

 

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