Inside This Issue - News
Walmart offers a path forward
June 24th, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For all the celebrity appearances and performances at Walmart’s recent annual shareholders meeting here, it was the retailer’s workers who were frequently the center of attention.
Walmart president and chief executive officer Mike Duke said the company offered a "path forward and a ladder up" for its associates. Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon touted the fact that 75% of the company’s store management team started their careers working as hourly store employees, and added that the company promotes 500 workers every day. To emphasize the point he called two associates on stage to promote them to assistant manager positions at their stores.
Last year 180,000 associated were promoted at Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club, company executives said. In January the company announced plans to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years, and promised to make it easier for part-time worker to find full-time jobs.
The roughly 14,000 people who attended the meeting at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s Bud Walton arena did hear from an employee who is a member of the union-affiliated group Our Walmart. Janet Sparks, who works at a Walmart store in Baker, La., called attention to the gap between Duke’s $20.7 million in 2012 pay and what store associates make, and urged support for a proposal that would require senior executives to hold a significant portion of their shares in the company until they reach retirement age, arguing that the rule would align the interests of executives and shareholders. That and three other shareholder proposals were voted down.
Most of the meeting, though, had the flavor of a celebration, with appearances by actors Hugh Jackman and Tom Cruise, and performances by singers John Legend, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson.
Walmart also announced plans for a new $15 billion stock buyback program, which replaces a similar program the company launched in 2011 and has largely completed.
Company executives called attention to Walmart’s strong financial position and its continued opportunities for growth. Duke said the company expects to generate $10 billion in global e-commerce sales by the end of the fiscal year, for example.
Duke also emphasized, at the meeting and with analysts afterwards, Walmart’s dedication to everyday-low prices, low costs and the productivity loop.
"This business model was created years ago — it’s a fantastic business model," Duke told analysts. "It’s simple, it’s straightforward. We try to operate with as low expenses as we can. We try to drive down SG&A [selling, general and administrative] expense, and we’ve done that three years in a row."
Duke said Walmart’s other priorities are developing its people, winning in e-commerce and operating with integrity.