Heritage

6 Walmart Artifacts to See at the Smithsonian

The beginning of July is always a great time to reflect back on Walmart history. After all, it was July 2, 1962, when Sam Walton opened his very first Walmart discount store in Rogers, Arkansas.

This year, the Smithsonian has a special birthday present for Walmart: Inclusion in the American Enterprise exhibit at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Open July 1, the exhibition “chronicles the tumultuous interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business – and American life.”    

The exhibition is an 8,000-square-foot space “focused on the role of business and innovation from the mid-1700s to the present.”  So if you’re heading to our nation’s capital this summer, take a look at where our country’s curators see Walmart’s place in American history.

Before you visit, here are a few things to know:

1.     Sam’s Walton’s Cap
This iconic piece of headgear is now on display in the Smithsonian. According to Peter Liebhold, Chair and Curator, Division of Work and Industry, if an artifact is in the Smithsonian archives, it’s officially in America’s collective memory. Of the more than 3 million artifacts in the archives, only about 1% are ever on display at one time. Sam’s cap is part of that 1%.

One other identical cap that’s been confirmed to have been worn by Sam in his final days is located in his office, on display at The Walmart Museum. Rob Walton donned it at Walmart’s shareholders meeting last month.

2.     Photo of Sam
The photo of Sam Walton that accompanies the display of Sam’s trucker ball cap is one that had been selected by associates in a Walmart World poll to be their favorite. While in the photo he’s not wearing the hat that’s on display, it was selected because of the disarming warmth the photo exudes.

3.     Rosalind Brewer, “Game Changer”
Also part of the American Enterprise exhibit is a video of Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer. In this particular display, visitors select from a gallery of business leaders that the Smithsonian’s curators deem “Game Changers.” For good reason, Roz Brewer is included in the gallery, having been recognized repeatedly as one of the world’s most influential businesspersons.

4.     Valeda Snyder
Walmart’s very first 50-year associate is featured in a timeline along with other retail and industry employees out there on the front lines. Sadly, Valeda passed away in 2012 in her hometown of Lebanon, Missouri, before her inclusion in the Smithsonian.
5.     Save money. Live better.
In its section on marketing and advertising, the American Enterprise exhibit includes the best-known and most important taglines and slogans in the history of the industry. Of all of them, SMLB stands out because of its simplicity and its origin: Sam Walton.

6.     Walmart Organic Produce
In the “Green Business” section of the exhibit, a colorful and vibrant photo of organic produce is on display as part of the story of the greening of American grocery.

Can’t make it this summer? No worries. American Enterprise is a permanent exhibition set to be open to the public for at least the next 20 years.     

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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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Heritage

How Helen Walton Helped Shape Walmart

Helen Walton was much more than Walmart’s first lady — our founder Sam Walton considered her one of his best business advisers.

In an audio interview kept in the Walmart Heritage Archives in Bentonville, Arkansas, Helen’s support of associates is clear.

Helen passed away in 2007, but her legacy lives on. We pulled just a few of her quotes that show how much she cared about associates and doing good for others — and how she helped Walmart become the company we are today.

Profit Sharing
“[Sam and I] were both real excited when the decision was made to go with some type of profit sharing so that the hourly people and the people on salary, that all people would share in the profit of Walmart. … So that’s been probably one of the greatest things, I think, that came along for Walmart. I think it’s meant as much to us as anything else. It gives everybody a sense that they are part of the company, and that’s important.”

Teamwork
“If you don’t have those associates in the stores ... the person at the top can’t do anything. They have to work together.”

A Passion for Community
Helen was driven to improve the lives of those less fortunate than she, whether they attended local schools or lived in faraway communities. “We knew we had to do something,” is the way she often prefaced her comments about an important cause.

She embodied her favorite saying, which she shared whenever she got a chance. “Up here in front of me where I have never failed to see it every day because I always sit down at my desk, is a sign that has meant very much to me and it says: ‘It is not what you gather in life, it’s what you scatter in life that tells the kind of life you have lived.’”

Read more about Helen and the Walton family at WalmartMuseum.com.

Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared in Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates.

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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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