Opportunity

Meet Sam’s Club’s New President & CEO, John Furner

Today, John Furner begins his new role as President and CEO of Sam’s Club. Starting as an hourly associate in 1993, John has climbed the ladder of opportunity with our company, with roles at both Walmart and Sam’s Club, including assistant store manager, assistant buyer, store manager, district manager and buyer before being promoted to vice president in 2006. Since then, he has held leadership roles in operations, merchandising and sourcing, in addition to an expatriate assignment with Walmart China. We sat down with John before his first day to learn a little more about him and his priorities for Sam’s Club.

Your journey through Walmart and Sam’s Club sounds like it has involved quite a few moving trucks and new business cards. Can you share some of the highlights?

It’s been an amazing ride and it all starts with your typical “boy joins rock band, rock band breaks up, boy needs job, boy gets job at Walmart” story.

It was 1993 and I was in college and also part of a fun little band on the side. The band broke up, so I needed to find a new job to help pay for some of my expenses. My dad worked for the company and he loved it, so it made my decision easier. I applied for a position as an hourly associate at the Walmart Supercenter in Bentonville, Arkansas, got the job and did whatever needed to get done in the store. 23-plus years, 16 or 17 jobs and three countries later, I feel like I’ve learned the business of Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club and Walmart International from the bottom up. With the support of my wife, Brandy, and our four kids, I’m honored and excited to be stepping into the role as President and CEO of Sam’s Club.

Along the way, you served as Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer in China. How did you use your merchant experience to serve a new customer?

I’d been traveling to China for quite some time as part of my buyer roles in the past and thought I knew the country. But after moving there, I quickly discovered I wasn’t as prepared as I’d thought. You learn to appreciate the complexity of life in a foreign country and how to successfully navigate, both personally and professionally, through dense population centers and different mindsets. Under Greg Foran’s leadership, our goal was to simplify the business with a keen eye on assortment, pricing and store operations. The generational divide in China is extreme compared to what most people think and our customers have very disparate points of view on things like assortment. For example, some customers put a priority on food security while others were looking for more global products. We knew we had to get that right if we wanted to strengthen our business. When my assignment was over, I was proud of the changes we made, and I’m thrilled to see how the business has continued to grow in stores and online.


How did you know that Walmart was the right place for you?

My father worked for Walmart from 1977 until 1994 so Walmart has always been in my blood, but I never had any plans to follow in his footsteps. Then my mother got sick, and I watched the way Sam and Bud Walton took care of my family. It was in that moment I knew how tremendously important people were to Walmart. I also knew I wanted to work for and with the organization that had provided so much support to my family. As I transition into this new role, I’m going to do a lot of listening, especially to the associates closest to our members. Like Sam said, “listen to everyone in your company.”

Where will your focus be on your first day in this job?

I’m going to be focused on simplifying the business and thinking differently. We have a lot of hard work and new opportunities ahead of us and each associate at Sam’s Club will play a role in getting us there. I’m thinking about it in terms of three big areas:

1. People – We need to engage everyone, at all levels of the company, in the fight we’re in. We need to put our members first and have everyone pulling in the same direction.
2. Product – The products we sell have to be the hero. People don’t shop our clubs for the beautiful buildings – we have concrete floors and steel racks. They come to us for great items, and we must get that right.
3. Digital – I’m committed to accelerating our digital transformation. We saw tremendous growth last year with SamsClub.com, Club Pickup, and Scan & Go. We must continue to move with speed in this space and use member data and insights to quickly adapt and meet the needs of the increasingly digital consumer.

What’s your favorite thing about shopping at Sam’s Club?

Have you tried the Member’s Mark Sea Salt Caramels yet?

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Innovation

A Look Inside Walmart's Next-Gen Test Stores

The world is navigating a cultural revolution into the digital age.

Meeting customers’ needs is critical as they adopt more digitally-driven lifestyles, expectations increase and increasingly shopping options do not require a trip inside a store.

With this in mind, Walmart is testing new approaches in two recently opened supercenters in Tomball, Texas, and Lake Nona, Florida. These stores were fully reimagined from a new layout to building and environmental enhancements to added technology that all improve the shopping experience.

Keep reading to learn more about these new retail environments. Or, if you’re in the area, drop by and look for yourself.

New Layout
We started with customer shopping behavior to reimagine the layout for these two stores. For example, services like the beauty salon and tech repair are adjacent to relevant merchandise. Health and wellness departments are consolidated to create a single destination. Baby, toys, kids' apparel and kids' shoes form a single destination to ease mom’s shopping journey.


Scan & Go
Speeding up checkout is critical to improving customer experience. So we’re testing Scan & Go technology that works both on personal smartphones and Walmart-provided handheld devices. Customers are greeted on their way into the store by a large bank of these Scan & Go wands, and new digital produce scales have been added to make scanning weighable items much easier. The Scan & Go fast pass checkout lanes allow customers to bypass the traditional checkout process, which makes a quick trip faster than ever.


SmartLife
New interactive projection technology allows customers to learn about connected devices (think Google Home, Apple TV, Nest, baby monitors and connected thermostats) and get answers to what is important to them. Since images are projected onto tables and walls, there’s no chance of accidentally damaging a product, and the product details can be updated more quickly through this new platform. This technology is found in the entertainment section of the store, as well as in hardware, baby, and health and wellness for relevant department items.


Integrated Pickup
Shoppers can use the outside drive-thru to pick up not just their weekly groceries, but also their prescriptions and Walmart.com orders.


Extended Aisles
Step into the Tomball Supercenter and you’ll find interactive screens offering access to an extended curated selection of online-only items in almost 100 categories. Customers can order products, pay with the rest of their basket at checkout and pick up two days later.


Appointment Setting and Ordering Technology
Need your deli order, fast? These stores test a new appointment and ordering kiosk system where you place your order, go shopping, then come back to quickly pick it up. If the initial test in the deli area goes well, it could be expanded to pharmacy, Auto Care Center, beauty salon or anywhere ordering and appointment setting occurs.


Next-Gen Call Buttons
Shoppers simply press a Wi-Fi-connected call button and wearable GPS-enabled devices alert associates that assistance is needed. Associates wearing these devices are trained in specific store areas and are on call to help in the furniture, paint, fabrics, sporting goods and bikes areas of the store.

So what’s the bottom line? By rethinking stores and testing new ideas with customers in real-life stores, we are improving customers’ experiences and making it easier than ever for them to get what they need as quickly and easily as possible.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Walmart’s in-store tests in this piece from Good Morning America.

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Opportunity

The Family Man Who Built a Better Future

Most days, Timothy Lumpkin rises well before the sun.

By dawn you’ll find him in the middle of a Florida-based Walmart distribution center leading his team in their morning stretching ritual before getting busy up-stacking cases as heavy as 50 pounds.

Timothy is no stranger to breaking a sweat before sunrise. On the dairy farm where he grew up working with his grandfather, clocking in at the crack of dawn was a part of life. From his grandfather, Timothy learned to value the tough-as-nails work ethic he’s known for at Walmart today. “My grandpa was the biggest inspiration in my life. He loved to work, so I had to pick up his rhythm.”

Timothy’s fondest childhood memories are of tending to his grandfather’s cows and, later, working in his junkyard where the pair spend countless hours tinkering under the hoods of old cars, taking apart transmissions and putting them back together.

Timothy never forgot his grandfather’s lessons, even when the odds seemed impossibly stacked against him. With no other family to rely on, Timothy worked to support himself through high school and graduated with honors. But after graduating, he had no place to go. “I was homeless. Literally, I had nowhere to go.”

That’s when he ran into an old friend who worked at Walmart. After speaking with him about the benefits and opportunity available, the friend convinced Timothy to send in an application. A week later, he was hired as a part-time associate in the deli. Timothy hit the ground running, immersing himself in his new position and volunteering to come in for extra shifts whenever possible. It didn’t take long before his trademark work ethic grabbed the attention of the department managers, and less than a year after he started, he was hired full time as an overnight stocker.

Looking back now, he’s come a long way. He has a career he loves and a beautiful home in which to raise his family. When it comes to the future, Timothy will be the first to say the hard work isn’t over. “Someday I want people to say, ‘Hey, that’s Timothy Lumpkin right there. He started with nothing and look, he made something out of it.’ All it takes is a little bit of willpower and you can do anything you want.”

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Community

Virtual Construction That’s Helping to Build Real Jobs

At the beginning of 2016, Iowa Workforce Development and Hawkeye Community College in Cedar Falls came together to consider the statistic that just 2.3% of Iowa’s construction workers are women.

The construction industry has always been male dominated, but in a state where heavy equipment operators are not only in growing demand, but paid an average hourly wage of more than $23, they saw an opportunity.

Through its PROMISE JOBS program, Iowa Workforce Development works tirelessly to connect Iowans – many of them low-income women with families – with training services. Last year, Hawkeye Community College had a fleet of simulators specifically designed to put individuals behind the controls of a backhoe, bulldozer, excavator, wheel loader and other common construction equipment. And with a state grant from the Walmart Foundation, they had the funding they needed to mobilize.

From January through July 2016, the construction equipment simulator trailer made its way to all corners of the state, with stops at each of IowaWORKS’ 15 regional facilities. Anywhere from 150 to 500 Iowans turned out at each location to try their hand at the controls, gauges and equipment systems in a safe, in-cab environment, with supervision from trained instructors. In some instances, representatives from construction companies came out to connect with interested residents on the spot.

Like any industry, construction isn't for everyone. But this collaboration opened the door to the possibility of a new career path – and a better life – for Iowans. The demand for construction workers, regardless of gender, is high. So this collaboration addressed a genuine issue.

For many, it could mean a transition into higher-paying jobs, thus supporting their families and their futures. That’s a scenario where everyone wins.

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Community

Harvesting Hope and Relieving Hunger for a Military Community

Members of the U.S. military and their families are very special people who sacrifice everything to ensure our safety and freedoms are protected.

Sometimes those same people are sacrificing even more than they should – they’re worried about where their families’ next meals will come from.

Here at Harvest Hope Food Bank in Columbia, South Carolina, my job is to work with local governments and businesses to understand how we can best work together to serve those in need. Working here for over six years has given me a unique perspective on hunger and it’s allowed me to see a gap we can help fill to help our military community.

We have a large military presence in South Carolina. Our state is home to several military facilities, a number of veterans’ hospitals and one of the largest military populations in the country. We have over 50,000 active and reserve troops and over 400,000 veterans living or working in our state.

With that many military men and women living and working in South Carolina, and the fact that Harvest Hope serves 20 of the 46 counties in the state, it’s understandable that we might see a few on occasion. Everyone goes through difficult times, and sometimes you just need a little boost to get back on your feet. What troubled me was how many people with military ties we were actually serving – approximately 12% of the people we see each day.

My philosophy, as well as those who work with me, is there’s no reason anyone who puts their life on the line should ever need to stand in line for food. As someone who served nine years of active duty, it’s a cause near and dear to my heart. So I took action.

I found a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on the use of food assistance programs by active duty military. I saw that Feeding America had recently developed a partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to increase food access to veterans. Both of these backed up what I was seeing in my community and pushed me to find a more strategic way reach those men and women who’ve already sacrificed so much.

In 2016, with the support of our food bank’s leadership, we developed Operation Hunger Prevention (HP). This is Harvest Hope’s first large-scale campaign focused specifically on providing food relief to active duty military, veterans and their families. We were so excited when we received grant funding from the Walmart Foundation and Bank of America Foundation to help us get the pilot program up and running – and demonstrate further the actual need for these services. The best part? We could provide assistance to active military, veterans or their family members without any cost to them or the U.S Department of Defense.

This year, we were very fortunate to receive an additional $75,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, and take Operation HP into a stage two pilot. It will allow us to expand the program out to county veterans affairs offices and ease the burden of having to search for additional funds and sponsors. Because of this funding, we’ll have more time to focus on helping our military community and their families. It will help us provide an estimated 375,000 additional meals.

I’m proud Operation HP is able to provide additional support for such an important part of our community – relieving stress and improving overall military readiness of our troops. These men, women, and families put a lot out there to protect our freedom and ask so little in return. This is just one small way of saying thank you.

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