Business

Dolphins, Dragons and Bears, Oh My! A Look at the Popularity of Plush

If you’re like me, as a kid you probably had a stuffed animal that eventually became your most precious toy – a teddy bear, or maybe even a huge collection of Beanie Babies that you loved showing off to your friends.

There’s something about having your own soft, trusty sidekick to carry around and snuggle at bedtime. These fluffy friends become a part of our home and make us feel safe and secure.

Today’s kids are still making these kinds of memories. Little ones haven’t given up on cuddling with their plush favorites, whether it’s a familiar classic like Elmo or Mickey Mouse, or a new line of exciting new characters. It might surprise some people to know that even next to all the latest gadgets and flashy toys, tried-and-true basics like stuffed animals are still just as exciting for kids as they used to be.

As senior buyer of preschool toys, it’s my job to bring this excitement to Walmart’s aisles – and honestly, it’s just as much fun for me to see the latest items as it is for the kids. I’m always impressed with the creative ways I see a well-loved classic recreated into something novel and entertaining.

Although plush has always been a kid favorite, we’ve found that as-seen-on-TV items, like Pillow Pets, have become a big hit. One of this year’s hottest toys is the Flip-a-Zoo, a phenomenon that’s flying off shelves and into little arms. Turn these animals inside out, and they flip between two different characters for double the fun –a cat becomes a mouse or a panda transforms into a dragon. This year, we’re proud to be the only retailer offering Flip-a-Zoo animals in stores.

Something that I think is great about plush toys is how kids of all ages fall in love with them. From preschoolers who carry a special favorite wherever they go, to the tween girl with a collection of emoji pillows arranged front and center on her bed, we’ve made sure there’s something here for everyone, even grownups.

For Valentine’s Day, one of the most prized gifts year after year is our giant, 55-in. stuffed teddy bear. We noticed how beloved this big guy was, and decided that this holiday season, we would offer the big bear and other larger-than-life animals at an unexpectedly low price – and our customers bought every single one!

Over time, a favorite plush friend becomes more than just a toy – it’s a memory. It’s exciting to watch people get excited about trends that, really, are more of a tradition. It warms my heart to know that even though the world around us keeps changing, there are some things that will always be the same.

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Life

Lights! Camera! Receipt! Walmart Takes on the Oscars

This Sunday, we’re kicking off a three-year partnership with the Academy Awards by doing something we’ve never done before.

We’re bringing audiences three original films by four award-winning directors, each based on a true story – not from a book or a play, but from a Walmart receipt.

Walmart has always been known for saving our customers money, but that’s not all we’re about. We also want to be a part of the ways the people who shop with us live better. One of the ways we can do this is by being a part of the big cultural moments that are important to our customers and giving them something fun to enjoy.

It all started with a challenge to four directors who are known for telling very different kinds of stories: Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Neighbors), Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw, The Magnificent Seven), and Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner). We sent them each a Walmart receipt with the same six items and asked, could they create with a short film based on just these items?

Bananas, paper towels, batteries, a scooter, wrapping paper, and a video baby monitor – an everyday combination, but one that can lead to three different and extraordinary places depending on what you take from it. After seeing what the directors came up with, the idea really does come to life. Each is unique, but they’re tied together because they all start from the same place.

The three short films will air this Sunday during the Academy Awards. We hope people will love them as much as we did, so we’re also going to post them to our YouTube account after the night is over.

The Academy Awards is a night that celebrates storytelling, and this challenge is an unexpected way for Walmart to pay tribute to that – and to join in on the fun!

Editor’s Note: Through this sponsorship, we’re also supporting the art of film in another way: a donation to The Academy Grants Program for FilmCraft. FilmCraft is a dynamic educational program that identifies and empowers future filmmakers from nontraditional backgrounds.

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Business

Galentine's Day: A Fun, Fresh Way to Celebrate the Ladies in Your Life

If you’re a fan of the NBC television hit Parks and Recreation, you might already be familiar with Galentine’s Day – a celebration of female friendship that occurs near Valentine’s Day (usually Feb. 13).

Observed by having a girls’ night out (or in!), or exchanging gifts, it is not meant to substitute for the traditional hearts-and-flowers holiday, but rather a way to acknowledge the members of your #squad who are there for you year-round.

This year, 1,000 Walmart stores are helping customers celebrate with new Galentine’s Day themed merchandise: decorations, party supplies and gifts. While still as adorbz as the traditional Valentine’s Day options, these products are a bit more grown-up, with metallic touches and crafty accents that are cute without being cutesy.

According to a recent report from the National Retail Federation, one in five people who celebrate Valentine’s Day plan to buy gifts for their friends. We talked with our seasonal buyer Wendy Milstead about why Galentine’s Day made sense for Walmart.

How long has Galentine’s Day been on your radar?
We’re always looking for new ways to delight customers. We started working on the Galentine’s Day program last April. It was a reimagining of our “Anti-Valentine’s Day” assortment that featured sayings like “Cupid is Stupid.” We wanted to do something with a more positive message.


How does Galentine’s Day merchandise differ from traditional Valentine’s Day merchandise?
These products are “aged up” with fun phrases and really developed with our customers in mind. Whether it’s the tassel garland with metallic accents or foodie enamel pins with matching "punny" sayings, we wanted to add in a bit of glamour to this fun, empowering holiday.


What’s your favorite item from this collection?
Definitely the plastic wine glass – it’s an assortment of two designs, “cheers my dear” and “sisters before misters." It comes in giftable packaging, and at $1.98 a pop, who wouldn’t guzzle this up?


What did you learn from launching this program?
We always rely on data, but sometimes when you launch a new program, you just have to go with your gut. Luckily I had great support from my managers, who encouraged me not to be afraid to fail. That’s how we stay on the forefront of the industry and work to lead the way.

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Opportunity

Work That Matters: Looking Back on 2 Years of Investing in People

Way back in 1979, a Walmart meeting kicked off with the theme “Our People Make the Difference.”

Those words stuck around, and today they’re even printed on associates’ name badges.

They’re words with staying power because they don’t simply form a slogan – they mean something real. Two years ago this week, those words took on extra meaning as our CEO Doug McMillon shared that we were making new investments in our people.

What has that commitment meant since then? Here’s a quick look.

Here’s What Happened
February 19, 2015 was a big day. After news broke that the company was taking a new approach to our jobs – specifically raising starting pay for 1.2 million associates across the country, and creating training programs to build skills that can help them be more successful – it went down in the Walmart history books.

200,000 Promotions
The next year, those raises went into effect, marking one of the largest single-day, private-sector pay increases ever – and resulting in new positions for many across the Walmart workforce. Out of the 200,000 associates promoted, more than 11,000 of them were hourly associates getting promoted to salaried manager positions.

Academies Across America
At 70 of our stores across the U.S. today, a Walmart Academy is a real place. It’s a dedicated building where associates can get advanced retail and leadership skills, as well as specifics on how to run individual store departments like produce and meat. The course is designed for hourly supervisors and department managers, who are paid to leave their home stores to soak up training that not only can help them be more successful in their careers, but also better serve their customers.

Graduation Day
As more Academy locations get up and running, each location hosts a real graduation. Associates celebrate in the company of their families, and then return to their stores to put their newfound skills to use.

New Pathways
In addition to Walmart Academies, we also launched another training course – Pathways – for all new entry-level associates. It’s a hands-on, interactive experience that combines computer-based learning with in-store training and results in an associate who’s better prepared to serve our customers and advance in his or her career.

Paid Time Off
Last year, our paid time off program got a refresh as well. In March 2016, we streamlined paid vacation, sick, personal and holiday time into one category for hourly associates in Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club stores. Not only does this give associates more control and flexibility – we believe it offers stability that helps better set anyone up to reach his or her true potential.

Taking Care of the People Who Take Care of You
When the news of this renewed commitment to our people began to take off two years ago, it made for an awesome day. It’s even better to look back now and be able to show that we’ve made real progress. But this is only the beginning. Putting our associates on the path to success ultimately makes Walmart a better business, and we’ve already found that investments in training, education and wages for our associates have resulted in higher customer satisfaction.

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Life

#FiveThingsFriday: The Beauty of Convenient Shopping

ICYMI: An investment in jobs sometimes means an investment in ordinary things … like socks. Check out this news, plus a few new ways to shop with convenience.

Sock it to Me

I’ve lived in the Sooner State, the Natural State, and the Windy City, but I’m thinking the Sock Capital of the World might be worth a visit. Last week, we signed a deal with Renfro Corporation as a part of our commitment to buy $250 billion in products that support American jobs. Renfro has been supplying Walmart with socks and hosiery since the 1970s, and this deal is expected to bring more than 400 manufacturing jobs to Fort Payne, Alabama.

Best in Beauty

It’s nice to pick up a surprise find on a routine shopping trip. But it’s even nicer when someone compiles a list of these surprise finds in one place for you. The good folks at Refinery29 have selected 12 of what they’re calling the “coolest and cheapest” beauty finds at Walmart. They’ve got everything from moisturizer to curling irons for your next impulse purchase.

It’s Like a Tiny Walmart … at a Big Walmart

We’re always testing new things at Walmart, from the latest technology in supercenters to completely new kinds of stores. In Crowley, Texas, we’ve opened one of two Walmart convenience stores (the other opened in Rogers, Arkansas). This little guy is about 2,500 square feet and located in the parking lot of the Crowley Walmart store. You can get gas, ICEEs, hot dogs, and most of your typical c-store fare. If you’re in the area, stop by and let us know what you think.

Welcome to the Family, Moosejaw!

The Walmart brand expanded this week with the acquisition of online outdoor retailer Moosejaw. The Michigan-based company has a great online presence plus 10 physical stores. They’re going to be joining our growing e-commerce team and we couldn’t be happier to have them aboard! Plus, it’s fun to say. Moosejaw … moosejaw…

The Science – and Smart Business – of Sustainability

Thinking green isn’t just good for the environment – it’s also good for business. Did you know we save $1 billion a year through improved fleet efficiency (read: ensuring our trucks are saving as much fuel as possible) alone? If you’re curious about how these efforts translate into real change, check out this piece in Environmental Leader.

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