A few years back, it was easy to dismiss ugly holiday sweaters as a fad. But this trend has not only taken root – it's stronger and tackier than ever.
The reason is simple: People are looking for happiness and joy during the holidays, and these sweaters make people smile. They spark conversation at parties. They’re fun – and we all need more fun in our lives.
Each year, we’ve seen this new December staple get uglier and more unexpected. And, while Walmart has been front and center in providing affordable, fun options for customers to purposefully “ugly” up their holiday wardrobes, we’ve gone all out this year.
We not only increased the volume of ugly sweaters in our stores, we added several with fun features. Some have working Christmas lights. Some of our sweaters – including a reindeer print – even sing to you. And since November, the women’s elf sweater dress we created has been flying off the shelves as fast as we’ve been able to stock it.
We’ve also ventured beyond the traditional adult sweater. We have a line of ugly sweater-themed T-shirts, with everything from Christmas trees and snowflakes, to gingerbread zombies and Star Wars characters, for men, women and children. We’re even offering ugly holiday sweaters for dogs.
I have to tell you, as a buyer and as a part of the team responsible for creating these sweaters, it was an absolute blast bringing some of these wacky ideas to life. The whole process of adding functioning lights into clothing, battery packs for sound and more – every detail mattered. We knew people would be talking about those items, but we also had to make sure it was going to be easy to remove and reinstall those components before and after the sweaters go through the washing machine. They’re fun but still functional.
We looked at all the details, like, is Santa’s nose pointing the right direction? Is it ugly in the right way? You want to turn heads, but you also want to be sure you're creating options that a teacher feels good about wearing in front of a class, for example.
So we’re proud of what we’ve created and thrilled by the positive response from customers. We’ve even heard about people doing ugly holiday sweater fashion shows. Supporting this tacky tradition is one way we’re helping make the holidays affordable, while also putting a smile on customers’ faces. And it makes our jobs a whole lot of fun.
The following letter from Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was taken from our 2017 Annual Report, which was released today. Read the report.
Dear shareholders, associates and customers:
As I sit down to write this year’s letter, I’m feeling proud of the progress we’re making at Walmart and, most specifically, the passion and hard work exhibited by our associates. I’m encouraged by the way we’re moving with greater speed to better serve customers.
Our business is getting stronger. In the U.S., we’ve delivered positive comp store sales for ten consecutive quarters and we’re hearing from our customers that their experience continues to improve. Sam’s Club comp sales improved throughout the year and members are increasingly using our digital tools like Scan & Go and Club Pickup. Outside the U.S., 10 of our 11 markets posted positive comp sales this past year. Across our business segments, e-commerce growth is accelerating. Our strategy to serve customers through e-commerce and our stores in a seamless way is gaining traction. The momentum we’re seeing is real and I’m excited about what the future holds.
We’re clearly living in a time of transformative change. The world is moving faster and the magnitude of the changes, and their influence on business, seem larger than I can remember. In retail, the things made possible by technology are fundamentally transforming this industry. These changes are creating compelling ways for customers to save time and gain easy access to products and services they didn’t have before. At Walmart, we’re harnessing the power of technology and the investments in our associates to create new ways of serving customers and provide associates with more opportunities to grow their careers.
We’ve been preparing ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities presented and we have four objectives that we’re focused on this year. First, we want to make every day easier for busy families. Customers are time-crunched, so we want their shopping experience with us to be fast and easy — truly seamless — in all the ways they want to shop: in stores, on their mobile device, or through pickup and delivery. I’m excited by many of our recent initiatives — like the free 2-day shipping offer with a $35 minimum order from Walmart.com, the expansion of online grocery around the world, and Sam’s Club’s launch of Scan & Go across the U.S. — because of the convenience these initiatives provide. The strategic acquisitions of Jet, ShoeBuy, Moosejaw and ModCloth, as well as the alliance with JD.com in China, provide customers with a broader assortment as well as more ways to save time and money. It’s truly been a significant year of progress on this front.
Our second key objective is to change the way we work. We’re focused on becoming more of a digital enterprise. We’re working to increase productivity with more efficient internal processes and creating more real-time information at our fingertips, supported by more advanced analytics. We’re providing in-store associates with the tools they need, like apps and tablets, to make it easier to gain insight into our performance. Our goal is to increase our speed, effectiveness for customers and productivity throughout the business. We’re also working to strengthen the performance mindset of our culture and fight bureaucracy that can plague large companies. A strong and effective culture is foundational to success and we’re shaping ours to drive performance and create even more opportunity for our diverse group of associates in an inclusive work environment.
Third, we will deliver results and operate with discipline. We were founded on an everyday low-cost mentality but we think we have opportunities to work in new ways and find a path to a lower cost base. This is vital for our future. We’ll be smart with how we allocate capital to drive long-term value for our shareholders. We’re after efficient growth. We will focus on growing more through e-commerce and comp sales in our current store fleet and rely less on new store growth in the U.S. We’ll also continually look at our portfolio to make sure we’re positioned to win. We’ll invest in our core business with store remodels, technology and customer initiatives like online grocery and pickup, while at the same time being open to divest non-core assets if it’s in our best interest.
The fourth objective is to be the most trusted retailer. During this time of change, customers are watching the companies they spend their time and money with more closely than ever. The way we earn their trust is through our associates doing the right thing every day — being creative, curious, ethical, service oriented and embodying our purpose of making lives better for others. If everyone could see inside the company I’ve come to love, they would feel even better about the company.
We’re doing things people would expect from Walmart: focusing on lowering prices — not by cutting corners, but by being better at delivering great items more efficiently than our competitors; and constantly innovating to save customers time as well as money. We’re also doing things that might surprise some people. We’ve made significant investments in our associates, providing the career opportunities they deserve and skills necessary to be successful at Walmart or wherever their career takes them. Over the last decade, we’ve become one of the most environmentally sustainable retailers (and companies) in the world and we’re raising the bar even higher. We’re investing in making our supply chain safer and more transparent so customers can be confident that the products they purchase are sourced the right way. And, we have embraced the journey towards the concept of “shared value” as espoused by Dr. Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, which challenges us to create a business model that is not just good for shareholders but better for everyone: customers, associates, suppliers, communities and society in general.
We’ve worked hard over the years to earn the trust of those we serve and do business with around the world. By no means am I saying Walmart is perfect. We’ll make honest mistakes along the way, but we won’t let up until we get it right. Our purpose is simple: we save people money so they can live better. We take both aspects of our purpose seriously.
We want to thank you for believing in us…for investing in our future. We are a company of the future. As I stated earlier, we’re operating from a strong foundation built by those before us and taking action aimed at strengthening our business this year and beyond. We’ll continue to strengthen our stores around the world, we’ll continue to build our e-commerce and digital capabilities, and we’ll put them together in a way that saves customers time and money. And as they choose to shop with us, we’ll be doing things behind the scenes to create shared value for all so they are confident that their trust in us is well-placed.
The Crotilla is a hybrid bakery item exclusive to Walmart. A combination of a croissant and tortilla, this flatbread can be used for everything from breakfast sandwiches to Indian food. I wanted to know what goes into arranging a food marriage, so I talked to Bradlee Underwood, senior buyer for Walmart Bakery, to get the back story.
E: Because the item was exclusive to Walmart, and brand-new, was there extra pressure to get it right?
B: Because it would be our customers’ first encounter with the Crotilla, we wanted all aspects of the product to be perfect. That meant everything from making the shape correct – the perfect size to fit in a toaster – to ensuring the Crotilla had enough layers. One thing we are especially proud of is the Crotilla’s high quality: It’s made with all butter, and baked fresh in our bakery every day.
E: What about the Crotilla is going to pique the curiosity of, say, a young professional?
B: We’ve been talking a lot about how to help busy customers save not only money but also time. Our millennial customers will appreciate the convenience factor – Crotillas are portable and perfect for a meal or a snack on the go.
E: I know as a mom shopping for my family, I have certain “go-to” foods I buy every week that I am confident my kids will like. What is going to make customers switch up their mealtime routines with a Crotilla?
B: In the same way Walmart is looking to surprise and delight customers, I think parents want to surprise and delight their families. The versatility of the product is really going to impress our customers. You can add Nutella and bananas for breakfast, or dress up a burger for lunch, or even make mini pizzas in the toaster oven for a fun dinner one night. And since Crotillas are easy and not messy, kids can pitch in help make dinner, too.
So, what goes into a Crotilla? Anything you want!
The Crotilla is available in 832 Walmart stores nationwide. Look for it in the fresh bakery department.
Every single week, Walmart helps millions of people get everything from bananas to books and baby gear.
But did you know that at the same time we’re getting that stuff to you, we’re also working behind the scenes to support our associates and serve our communities?
Each year, Walmart releases a Global Responsibility Report (GRR) that details all of those efforts. From investing in opportunity for our associates, to purchasing more products that support American jobs, we’re committed to making a difference.
The full report is available here, but if you’ve only got a few minutes, Walmart associate Kyle Jones breaks it down in this video – all in the time it takes for him to get to his desk in the morning.
What is sustainability? For businesses and consumers alike, it means finding cleaner, renewable sources of energy like solar panels and wind turbines, and reducing waste using the three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle.
Companies like Walmart and our suppliers can go one step further by setting a goal to sell products that are sourced and produced with people and the environment in mind.
Since Walmart first began incorporating sustainability into our everyday work years ago, we have learned that it’s not just good for people and good for the environment – it’s good for business, too. It has made us a better company and showed us that when we work with others, we can make a greater impact.
One specific way we’re aiming to do that is through Project Gigaton, a platform that will help our suppliers make progress in reducing emissions from their operations. Our collective goal is to eliminate 1 gigaton worth of emissions by 2030. That’s equal to three times the annual emissions of the state of California.
We’re excited about the positive actions already happening with some of our suppliers. Land O’Lakes, for example, by 2025 will enroll 20 million acres of land in the SUSTAIN program, a sustainable agriculture initiative in which farmers are reducing soil erosion, conserving water and cutting their carbon emissions by keeping more carbon in the ground.
We’re proud of the improvements we’ve made to date, but even more so, we’re inspired by the commitment of our suppliers. We look forward to continuing our efforts that seek to address some of our global challenges and to improve people’s lives.
Check out the graphic below to learn about Project Gigaton and what reducing greenhouse gas emissions looks like.
Editor’s note: To learn more about Project Gigaton and our sustainability efforts, watch the replay of our recent Sustainability Milestone Summit here.