Health & Wellness

How We’re Fighting Food Deserts

You may have heard the term “food desert” before, but what does it really mean? Well, it’s sort of what it sounds like — an area, in urban or rural settings where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Instead of grocery stores with fresh fruit and vegetables, the landscape is often limited to convenience stores and fast food restaurants.  

People who live in areas without access to affordable, healthy food often suffer from a number of nutrition related health problems including obesity, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. So it’s no surprise that helping close the access gap has been a big part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move!  program designed to help fight childhood obesity and help Americans get healthy.

As the country’s largest retailer of groceries, Walmart has a role to play in helping improve access to affordable healthy food. In July 2012, we joined the First Lady and the Let’s Move! initiative by committing to open 275 to 300 new stores in areas that serve food deserts by 2016. When the U.S. Census showed an increase in areas that fall into the food desert category, we opened 224 stores across the country in areas that serve those food deserts, including states where it’s a big problem like my home state of Texas (27 stores), California (18 stores), and Colorado (12 stores). Of those, 48 were opened in fiscal year 2012, 80 in fiscal year 2013, and 96 in fiscal year 2014.

This is a commitment we take very seriously at Walmart. From the beginning we’ve always said that a customer shouldn’t have to choose between a food that is healthier for them and a food they can afford.  Families should have reasonable access to a store that provides healthy choices and helps that family live better.  I’m proud to say that we are doing our small part to bring better options to families to urban and rural areas across the country.  

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Innovation

How Lab 415-C is Changing the Shopping Experience

Technology is changing the way people live.

At Walmart’s Lab 415-C, we look for disruptive, innovative technology that has the potential to change the way people shop. But not just change that part of their lives – make it better.

From augmented reality to robotics, our team discovers and tests emerging technology that powers the shopping experience our customers want. In fact, we’re even named after an early innovation in Walmart’s heritage: Sam Walton’s 415-C airplane, which he used to scout real estate from the sky (a business-growth tactic that was unheard of in the 1950s).

How do we bring these innovations to our customers and associates? It starts with research. You wouldn’t buy a car without researching its capabilities, safety and reliability, right? We research between 700-750 technologies a year and make sure we know the technology’s maturity, use cases, comparisons and how it can improve shopping for customers. We look at everything from technology that helps associates run stores more efficiently to capabilities in the internet of things (connected devices that communicate without human interaction, such as a smart thermostat).

But what good is research if it isn’t shared with others? That’s where our showcasing team comes in. More than 5,000 people come through Lab 415-C each year. Our showcasing team helps plan discussions, brainstorms and events within Walmart and the greater entrepreneurial and academic community to accelerate how we find innovative technology.

Testing technologies for how they’ll work within Walmart is another aspect of Lab 415-C’s capabilities. We’ve tested technologies internationally, at local stores and within our lab at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Failing fast is key, so we don’t see failure as a roadblock; we see it as a way to finesse the solution to fit Walmart’s needs.

An important way we find solutions that fit our customers’ needs is by sourcing innovations from technology suppliers. This October, we are doing that in a big way through our Technology Innovation Open Call, an event where our leaders will meet with companies creating the latest technology for retail, logistics, big data, security and social media.  

Our open call event is a great opportunity for companies to pitch their innovations to the largest retailer in the world. I can’t wait to see what ideas and inventions we’ll discover! Together we will transform the shopping experience.

Submission deadline for potential selection in the Technology Innovation Open Call is July 22, 2016, or the first 250 submissions. For details and an application, click here.

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Health & Wellness

Losing Weight, But Gaining New Perspective

My struggles with weight started around the time my last child — my son, Drake — was born.

He was premature; he weighed just 3 pounds and 3 ounces when he was born and was in the neonatal ICU for six weeks. Each day, my wife and I shuttled to the hospital, eating nothing but fast food, living in complete fear. It was the most terrifying time in my life, and I emerged from it changed in many ways.

For one, I was a lot heavier.

Before Drake was born, I weighed roughly 225 pounds. I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall, so I wasn’t exactly slim to begin with. In the months after his birth, my weight climbed to more than 265 pounds. While it’s true that I had lots of things to worry about then, I always knew that I needed to make real changes. 

First Steps

When Drake was about a year old, in June 2011, he was taking his first steps; coincidentally, my wife and I were taking some of our own. We started working out on our Xbox; shortly after that, we joined a gym. I began to lose weight doing cardio and strength training, and I started getting in shape — mentally as well as physically. Customers and colleagues alike started noticing and talking to me about my weight loss. It made me feel much closer to them. Their support made the effort easier.

As my wife and I grew healthier, we aimed to eat healthier. That wasn’t easy: We were used to eating whatever we wanted — pizza, burgers, ice cream, soda, you name it. To make a change, we had to clean out our cabinets completely. It was a total pantry makeover.

Now I’m a Guide

About a year after we started our journey to better health, one of my store’s co-managers mentioned the ZP Challenge to me — ZP for “zip” or zero, meaning, you make it what you want it to be — specifically because he knew about my efforts. But he didn’t just ask me to look into the program, which is basically a friendly competition to inspire better wellbeing. He asked if I could set it up in the store and introduce other associates to it. That was a big deal.

That was three years ago, and I’ve participated in the Challenge, a program for Walmart associates, their families and friends, ever since. I even won a prize for my success story — the very one I’m telling now. But to be honest, it wasn’t the biggest gift I received. I’ve also been honored to help more than 30 of my fellow associates with the program.

Paying It Forward

I now weigh about 180 pounds, perfect for my size (at one point I was at 153, but that wasn’t realistic). More than that, my life and my perspective have changed. I have more energy. I’m more outgoing. I enjoy life, and I share that enthusiasm. One of the things I’ve started doing is telling people in my life they’re doing a good job. When you tell people they’re doing awesome, it changes their day, and your own. Even more, it changes your world. Honestly, because of all these changes, I’m a nicer person.

I’m also one of the first 10 official ZP guides, so I’m ready with support and information whenever anyone needs either. I’m paying it forward. The support I’ve gotten in the store and online has been nothing short of tremendous. And I want to let others know they can be tremendous, too. Because you can. Everyone can.

I’m living proof.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates. Read other associates’ stories of encouragement and motivation at ZPChallenge.com.  

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Opportunity

A Brother, a Sister, and Success in Parallel

Editor’s Note: With this post, we follow up with two associates who previously shared their stories on video.

Proximity brought Nicholas Qualman to Walmart, but his personal drive has since taken him far.

In 1998, the then 16-year-old was working for a fast-food chain located in the parking lot of the Walmart store in his hometown of Marinette, Wisconsin. He was tired of making burgers and wanted to work the counter, but with no positions open, he had to look elsewhere for a new challenge.

He applied at Walmart and was hired as a cashier, and he hasn’t stopped moving since. 

By the time he was featured in this 2011 video, he’d earned 10 promotions. After that, he lost count.

“I’ve had many careers within the same company,” he said, reciting every title he has held, which comes to about 16.

His ambition has taken him from cashier to department manager to a role leading education for other associates and many – many – points in between. In the summer of 2015, he began helping to support the rollout and day-to-day operations of online grocery, which includes store pickup and home delivery – a job that he says is his favorite thus far.

“It’s a completely new way of us serving the customer,” he said. “I equate it with being the supercenter of this generation. It’s a game changer for stores and for our customers.”

As Nick moved up in the company, he also moved around. “One of the great things is you get to experience different people and the company in different geographies,” he said.

He transferred from Northeast Wisconsin to Minneapolis for college, then worked in Sacramento; San Diego; Los Angeles; Princeton, New Jersey; Boston; and Scottsdale, Arizona. He now calls San Bruno, California, home.

Like Brother, Like Sister

Nick’s drive can only be matched by that of his sister, Jessica Crow. It took her only five years to do what he did in 17 years, Nick said with pride and a bit of brotherly frustration.

“We’re kind of in competition,” he said, “and I’ve got to tell you, I’m struggling to keep ahead. She’s told me several times she wants my job.”

Jessica joined the military after college and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. When she returned to the States, she toured the country with the Pentagon to share her experiences.

Despite what she’d gained in the military, finding a satisfying job in the private sector was difficult, Nick said. She worked in logistics but didn’t feel happy or challenged. That’s when Nick offered to share her resume within Walmart. But, he told her he wouldn’t push it: Getting hired was up to her.

It wasn’t long before Jessica was offered the position of developmental store manager. She made it to store manager in three months and moved to a new store after a year and half. A few promotions later, she is now a divisional manager – also surpassing the story she shared in this 2013 video.

After talking about his sister, Nick was quick to point out, “My story isn’t unique – it’s one of many, many stories of Walmart associates. Not everyone has had a chance to tell their story.”

Nick doesn’t want his story to end here. He achieved his last goal of joining the e-commerce team, and now he’s setting his sights on Walmart International, the one area he says he hasn’t yet touched. For now, Nick sees himself sticking with online grocery for the next five years or more – if he can keep his sister at bay. “I’m just worried about my job,” he joked.

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Business

What is Seamless Shopping? Q&A with CEO Doug McMillon

The following conversation with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is excerpted from our 2016 Annual Report, which was released today. Read the report.

Q: We’re now living in a new period of retail disruption, largely driven by rapid technological advances, and that change is likely to accelerate even further. What does the future look like for Walmart?

A: Our work starts and ends with the customer. Technology has changed customer expectations. Customers used to compare us with the store down the street; now they compare us with the best online shopping experience. And beyond retail, they compare us with every business they interact with in their lives. They compare our pickup experience to the speed and friendliness of the best drive-through. They compare our checkout process to the ease of paying with an app.

Customers should be able to shop on their own terms – in a great store or club, with a quick pickup stop on the way home from work, or with items reliably arriving at the front door. And customers want to have some money left over to put toward their priorities: an experience together as a family, a special gift every once in a while, or savings for a rainy day.

Retail is not just about putting items on a shelf anymore. It’s about fighting for our customers, cutting out the hassles and advocating for them on price, too. We’re moving beyond just selling products to being the brand customers rely on to make their lives simpler and more meaningful as they save money.

Q: You’ve mentioned “seamless shopping” before. What does that mean, and how will Walmart deliver?

A: It starts with unparalleled assets that only Walmart has – our 2.3 million people; more than 11,500 retail locations; e-commerce websites and apps; and a dynamic, optimized supply chain. But it also requires new capabilities and fresh thinking.

This includes new digital tools for customers and frontline associates, as well as back-end software and platform work that benefits the entire enterprise. The use of data, algorithms, advanced forecasting capabilities – and more – is of extreme strategic significance.

We will put these pieces together in a way no one else can.

Ultimately, customers don’t care about what channel they’re shopping in, or about how we deliver them a product or service. They simply know they’re shopping with Walmart.

Q: What is Walmart already doing to make progress against this seamless shopping strategy?

A: To help our associates succeed and better serve our customers, we’ve made big changes – including investing approximately $2.7 billion over two years in higher wages, education and training to make Walmart U.S. a better place to work and shop. We’re already seeing positive results: our fourth quarter of fiscal 2016 marked six consecutive quarters of positive comps and five straight quarters of positive traffic at Walmart U.S. Everything we’re doing in omnichannel depends on customers having great interactions with us in our stores.

We're also accelerating e-commerce and technology advances globally. We expanded Online Grocery shopping to new markets, ramped up in-store and in-club pickup, fully acquired the Chinese online retailer Yihaodian, and began to add new mobile services such as Walmart Pay. We developed a technology platform that we can scale across the business. We improved our fulfillment capabilities with new centers that are helping us get orders to customers’ doors faster and more efficiently.

Q: It’s clear what these strategic investments mean for customers. How will they affect associates and the communities where Walmart operates?

A: As we work to win with our customers, we will also create a great place to work. We will create tremendous opportunities for people from all walks of life, with all kinds of skill sets and education levels. We’re striving to create a true meritocracy. No matter where you start from or what your unique and special characteristics are, you can fulfill your potential here. We believe in opportunity and that hard work, dedication and talent should be rewarded.

We will also use our size, mindset and policies and help make the world a better place. We create opportunity throughout our global supply chain – on farms and in factories, by buying more from women-owned businesses, by hiring veterans and by strengthening the retail industry workforce.

We work to be more sustainable, both in our own operations and in our supply chain. We have three big goals: creating zero waste, running on 100 percent renewable energy and selling products that sustain people and the environment. And we give back to the communities we serve – supporting American manufacturing, preparing for and responding to natural disasters and fighting hunger.

Q: What does this growth plan mean for investors?

A: We will win with a differentiated, disruptive strategy and a foundation of operational excellence. As we do, we believe shareholders will benefit by receiving above-average returns.

Although this will be another year of foundational investments, we believe we will soon be growing faster than the retail market. We are a growth company; we just happen to be a large one.

The road ahead will not always be easy, but by being customer focused, hungry, fast and accountable, we will win and have a good time doing it.

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