Health & Wellness

One Community’s Track to a Healthier Lifestyle

Just shy of 198,000. That’s how many square feet the Walmart store I manage in Sanford, Maine covers. But, at this location, I – and the several residents who frequent it at the crack of dawn during the late fall and winter months with gym shoes on – tend to calculate things differently.

Walmart prides itself on being more than a store that offers customers everyday low prices on goods and services. We seek out opportunities to connect with the community on a larger level. One such opportunity here in Sanford has been to open our facility to those looking for a safe environment to get their morning walk in once the temperatures start dropping and the snow starts flying.

There are quite a few folks who know the perimeter of our store – from toys to electronics to dairy and through produce – like the back of their hands. They know a lap is exactly ¼ mile, so four times around equals 1 mile. And, for many, that’s enough to continue working toward a healthier lifestyle.

It all began in early 2014, when Partners for Healthier Communities, a community coalition working to improve the health and well-being of residents in York County, approached us with the idea. We make our store available and promote it with in-store signage. PHC promotes it externally and supplies free pedometers to those who participate.

We offer the option year-round, but during the dead of winter is when it really picks up. We’ll have anywhere from 8 to 20 people doing laps around the store bright and early. When you really step back to think about it, it's a no-brainer. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to contribute something we have – space. There are people who have been walking their entire lives to keep fit. Others are trying to make a positive change or are recovering from surgery. Whatever the case, it’s something we’re going to continue to support.

I love walking in the door in the morning and seeing people doing laps. Once in a while, they even give a tip or two about how to improve our store. That’s a tradeoff I’ll take any day.    

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Business

Why Smarter Inventory Means Better Customer Service

When you’re getting ready to head to Walmart, you expect everything on your list will be ready and waiting on our shelves.

With millions of items for sale, ensuring that happens – for everything, every time – is quite a complex process behind the scenes.

Managing back room inventory – products that are stored in back rooms for days, sometimes weeks, before they reach shelves – can be a challenge. It requires constant monitoring, and can sometimes take associates away from the sales floor where they would otherwise be helping customers. So recently we’ve been experimenting with new and better ways to improve the process for everyone.

Top Stock is one of these new systems that we’re testing in stores. With it, we’ve moved a great deal of our back stock inventory to somewhere else very simple: the top shelves on our sales floor. By keeping additional merchandise closer to where it’s sold, we can maintain fuller shelves while keeping a better in-the-moment read on inventory.

I spent the first 12 years of my three decades with Walmart in replenishment and supply chain roles, so I understand the significance firsthand of how this makes storage and stocking so much easier. But there’s also quite a bit more that directly benefits customers:

  • All the extra space we’re opening up in our back rooms is making it easier for us to integrate services like online grocery pickup. While the demand for grocery pickup is obvious, finding adequate space within our existing stores had sometimes been a challenge.
  • Need something you don’t immediately see on the shelf? Waiting for an associate to check our back room during peak holiday shopping periods could soon be a thing of the past. By improving our inventory management processes, we’re bringing the products and services that customers need one step closer. In fact, the implementation of Top Stock has helped reduce our rental of temporary inventory trailers to a small fraction of what it was just a few years ago.
  • Our improvements in inventory management are getting more associates out of the back room and onto the sales floor, where they can help and interact with customers.
  • Perhaps best of all, our associates can use open back room space for career-building education. When one store in Morrisville, North Carolina, implemented Top Stock inventory management, they reduced back room inventory by 75% in two months, allowing enough new space to open an Academy for associate training.

What’s worked for our business in the past isn’t always what’s best for today’s shopper. When we commit to coming up with unexpected ways to do the small things better, we not only become smarter and more efficient, but create a big win for our customers at the same time.

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Health & Wellness

A New Way of Working Together for Dietary Supplement Safety

Whether it’s a vitamin or mineral, tablet or even energy bar, the majority of adults in the U.S. take one or more dietary supplements either every day or occasionally.

These supplements provide extra nutrients when one’s diet is lacking or when certain health conditions cause the development of a deficiency in vitamins, minerals, or other dietary substances.

From herbals and botanicals to amino acids, probiotics, enzymes, and others, there are a wide variety of supplements available today that allow consumers to play a more active role in their health and nutrition.

But the rapid growth and expansion of products in the marketplace has called into question their quality and safety. In addition, the differing quality seals and verification marks on product labels can lead to confusion. That’s why we are excited to announce that Walmart is working, in collaboration with the Natural Products Association, GNC and other leading retailers, to create the Supplement Safety & Compliance Initiative (SSCI).

What is the Supplement Safety & Compliance Initiative?

SSCI brings some of the largest retailers, raw material manufacturers and suppliers, dietary supplement manufacturers and other stakeholders together to assist in strengthening safeguards and helping to ensure regulatory compliance from harvest to retailer shelf.


Why is SSCI important to Walmart?

Manufacturing practices vary widely across the dietary supplement industry. Although all of our private label – aka store brand – suppliers must have a third-party audit and certification, SSCI will ensure they meet our stringent expectations and a recognized high standard through the supply chain.

The goal of SSCI is to recognize and help ensure various safety and manufacturing standards provide greater assurance throughout the supply chain. Agreeing upon common standards is a critical piece in the initiative and a process that is proven to be effective with enhancing consumer safety.

SSCI is a bold step forward for the dietary supplement industry. We look forward to having additional retailers and others join this effort to support the enhancement of the authenticity and safety of dietary supplements and ultimately improve the health and nutrition of consumers everywhere.

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Innovation

Uncovering How We’ll Shop in the Future

As new technology brings new possibilities, there’s been an explosion of ways to shop – smartphone apps, online grocery shopping and Scan & Go for easier checkout, to name just a few. To serve customers better, we need to stay ahead of the research that helps form the ideas that will continue to revolutionize how we shop.

I’m part of a small team that’s delving deep into research to improve the shopping experience for everyone. I’m a data scientist for Sam’s Club Technology, and I like to compare what we do to building a car: You have to start with the engine.

My day-to-day work is all about staying on top of new methods to build that engine. I look at ways we can incorporate emerging research in object recognition, detection and segmentation – technology that can make things like our Scan & Go app even smarter. For instance, instead of scanning a bar code, the app will be able to recognize products using photos taken by your phone’s camera.

Because this is such a fast-moving field, the research I work with is in its earliest stages. I might work with one algorithm today, and a couple months from now use a completely new model that’s even better than what we had before.

Tech is constantly evolving, which makes innovation essential for retailers. We have to continually adapt our business to our shoppers’ lifestyles. There’s a lot of coding, engineering and algorithm testing that goes into building something that works better than what people are used to. It’s challenging, but that’s why I’m lucky to work with such talented people.

Until I joined the team last year, I never realized the strong sense of pride that associates in the Walmart and Sam’s Club family have in what our business does. After studying at Yale, I worked in financial engineering in New York – I didn’t expect to find an opportunity to do such innovative work in Bentonville, Arkansas.

I’ve found that in the corporate world, it’s rare for a business to invest in cutting-edge research. But, from the start, Walmart has chosen to invent some of our own solutions instead of waiting for someone else to come up with them. In this new age of tech, we’re still evolving and inventing better ways to get from Point A to Point C.

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Innovation

5 Ways Walmart Uses Big Data to Help Customers

In many industries, big data provides a way for companies to gain a better understanding of their customers and make better business decisions.

Walmart relies on big data to get a real-time view of the workflow in the pharmacy, distribution centers and throughout our stores and e-commerce.

Check out the infographic below to see how Walmart uses big data to make the company’s operations more efficient and improve the lives of customers.

Whether it’s analyzing the transportation route for a supply chain or using data to optimize pricing, big data analytics will continue to be a key way for Walmart to enhance the customer experience.

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