Walmart is once again using its considerable clout to exert a positive influence on matters that normally fall outside the purview of retailers.

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Inside This Issue - News

Walmart steps up

January 28th, 2013

NEW YORK – Walmart is once again using its considerable clout to exert a positive influence on matters that normally fall outside the purview of retailers.

The company, which previously launched a $4 generics program in an effort to limit prescription drug costs and committed itself to making healthy food more accessible and affordable, has set its sights on helping reenergize the U.S. economy.

Bill Simon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S., unveiled the three-part initiative during a keynote address at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show here earlier this month. The retailer intends to increase purchases of products from domestic suppliers by $50 billion over the next decade, offer jobs to recently discharged military veterans and assist part-time associates who want to work full time make that move.

"We’ve appointed a senior team within Walmart to lead this effort," Simon said about the plan to buy more goods from U.S. manufacturers. "We’ve decided we will sign longer-term purchase agreements when it makes sense to give suppliers the certainty to invest here."

The company will increase purchases in such categories as sporting goods, basic apparel, storage products, games and paper products, according to Simon, and look to develop domestic sources in several “high-potential areas,” including pet supplies, textiles, furniture and high-end appliances.

Echoing a theme sounded by other speakers at the NRF convention, Simon, who noted that Walmart currently acquires about two-thirds of the products it sells in this country from U.S. sources, called on other retailers to look beyond the narrow confines of their business. "I hope many of you will join this effort," he said. "Again, our work is only the start. We will do $50 billion on our own. But, as an industry we could set our sights higher. Let’s drive $500 billion in new purchases over the next 10 years. That’s what an American renewal looks like."

For Walmart, another aspect of that renaissance involves offering employment to individuals who have served in the country’s military. Starting on Memorial Day, the company will provide jobs to veterans who apply within 12 months of being honorably ­discharged.

"Hiring a veteran can be one of the best business decisions you make," noted Simon, who served for 25 years in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves. "Veterans have a record of performance under pressure. They’re quick learners and team players. They are leaders with discipline, training and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever."

The company is moving to make it easier for current associates who share those characteristics to advance. Simon said that Walmart offers workers at all levels a wealth of opportunities. The retailer has between 15,000 and 50,000 job postings at a given time, and it promotes 170,000 people every year.

"At Walmart, we’re working to clarify the opportunities we offer," he noted. "As we listen to our associates, we’ve found that in an organization of 1.3 million people, it can be difficult to understand all of the options. One thing we hear is that some don’t know how to become full-time. And while not every associate currently with us wants a full-time position, we understand that some do.

"We’re working on some internal changes to help them make that transition. Ultimately we want every associate to find the career opportunities they want with Walmart."

All of the actions announced by Simon stem from Walmart’s conviction that retailers can be a catalyst for positive change.

"Taking action on the economy is our responsibility as Americans, but it’s also our opportunity as retailers," Simon told attendees at the NRF show. "The fundamental business question is this: Do we accept that the pie of customer dollars will remain the same each year, and we will compete over our slice of that pie? Or can we create a bigger pie?"