Community

How Walmart is Supporting Associates Impacted by Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma hit the Walmart family hard.

For Cassie Bell and the associate support team in Walmart’s Emergency Operations Center, the priority this weekend and in the days to come is making sure associates are safe and that their immediate needs are being met.

Continuing an effort that began in the wake of Hurricane Harvey last month, Walmart has mobilized its Associate Resource Call Center to check in on associates in impacted areas, help get them to safety and give them the support information they need. To date, volunteers at the call center have conducted more than 5,200 calls and spoken with thousands of associates on the ground in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

“Communication is critical during these events,” said Bell, Sr. Human Resources Manager. “We’re staying in contact with our store and club management teams, distribution centers and call centers, reminding them of emergency procedures and what to do during and after the storm.”

Walmart has mobilized a special call center focused on associate needs. Above, volunteers take calls from associates in hurricane affected areas.

But associate support doesn’t end with communication. Bell outlined a number of additional measures Walmart is taking to help associates who live and work in Irma’s path:

  • Walmart is offering Disaster Displacement Assistance (DDA), a grant that helps pay personal, family and living expenses resulting from a disaster. DDA helps get associates and their families out of harm’s way before the storm hits. It also helps them get back home once they are allowed to return.
  • Associates whose stores are forced to close outside their normal operating schedule due to the disaster or mandatory evacuation ordered by a governmental authority are eligible for up to four days of disaster support pay.
  • Using new technology the company recently implemented in its compensation department, Walmart is providing near-instant access to earned wages as an extra effort of relief. This program allows eligible associates to receive earned pay prior to their actual payday, giving them additional resources as they prepare for, and recover from, the storm.
  • Walmart is setting up support centers inside Training Academy facilities near impacted areas, providing hot meals to families and proactively calling associates to conduct wellness checks.
  • Associates wanting to work in other facilities are able to find openings by reaching out to their Human Resources Manager. Post-storm, Walmart will be identifying additional opportunities for associates to work in another store if theirs is closed due to the storm.

To help ease the minds of impacted associates who are worried about how they’re going to get back to work, Bell said absences for eligible associates have been approved throughout the storm and recovery.

“Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of our associates — taking care of them and their families,” Bell said. “We are working hard to re-open stores as soon as it is safe to do so, and we want to help associates get back to work as soon as they are ready.”

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U.S. Manufacturing

Making Your Favorite Jeans Better for the Planet

Almost everyone has a favorite pair of blue jeans. The ones that fit like a glove, your go-to pair for any occasion.

As we know them today, jeans were the invention of Jacob Davis and his friend, Levi Strauss, who patented the pants in 1873. Since then, jeans have become a huge part of American culture, from cowboys to rebels and rock stars, to hipsters and heads of state. They are a fashion statement and a wardrobe staple.

Blue jeans were once America’s most popular export. They are no longer widely manufactured nor dyed in the U.S. and, while blue jean manufacturing has evolved over the years, the indigo dyeing process has not. Most countries still use the same methods established in the early 1920s.

So, why does this matter? While indigo is a natural, non-toxic dye, the chemicals used to make the color stick to cotton fibers are quite harsh, and the process requires thousands of gallons of water to rinse the chemicals out later.

Recently, the Walmart Foundation, through the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, supported a project at Texas Tech University where researchers are using a foam indigo dyeing technique on cotton fibers. According to Texas Tech, this method, which uses a frothy foam dye designed to penetrate the entire fiber, eliminates the use of harsh chemicals and reduces water and energy usage by nearly 90%. This innovation could be a game changer for denim manufacturers by lowering costs and reducing environmental impacts.

This project’s potential is just now unfolding. And it’s part of a broader effort to grow local economies, and ultimately, create more jobs in communities across the country.

Watch the innovative foam indigo dyeing process in action and hear from the people at Texas Tech University who helped create it.

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Community

‘The Love in the Air is Thicker Than the Smoke’

When Christel Antone went to sleep on Oct. 10, she was worried about her sick grandchild. It wasn’t the only thing on her mind.

For the last two days, she and her neighbors had been threatened by the fires raging throughout Sonoma County, California. A mass evacuation was underway.

At 1 a.m., Christel – a Walmart store co-manager in Rohnert Park, California – woke up to a crying baby and the unmistakable stench of smoke. Something was on fire. Around her house, everything seemed normal. She looked out the windows of her Windsor, California home: To the west, she saw her local Walmart; to the east, mountains. No fire yet – only smoke.

But the fire was coming.

“At that moment, I felt nothing but fear,” Christel said. “Others in the area were being evacuated. So I started getting ready to leave.”

Within two hours, Christel and her husband, two children and grandchild were packed tight into their cars. At 3 a.m., they were part of a mass evacuation – one of thousands of families headed south. They were on the way to her parents’ home in Rohnert Park, normally a 15-minute drive. It took them three hours to reach safety.

Meanwhile, assistant manager Casey Wolven-Scott stood looking at a sea of cars in the Rohnert Park Walmart parking lot. Hundreds of evacuees had only what was on their backs when the time came to leave: kids without shoes, their parents in pajamas. Every one of them tired, afraid and not sure if they would have a home to come back to.

Casey stepped further outside. The highway, which she could see from the store, was flooded with headlights. “Fire truck after fire truck after fire truck was speeding north, up the highway,” Casey said. “Heading south, it was bumper to bumper traffic.”

She decided she had to help her neighbors. “I was one of two people who could run a register,” Casey said. But she had to open the store so people could get basics and use the restroom. Her shift, which had started at 8 p.m. the night before, didn’t end until lunchtime the next day. She saw to it that her store was there for people at this desperate time of need.

A few miles north of the store, at Elsie Allen High School, Christel spent the next day volunteering for those looking for shelter. “We kept hearing alerts and needs for first responders, so we gathered everything we could from my parents’ house, clothes and food, and took it to the high school,” Christel said.

Despite being driven away from her own home, Christel knew she had to help. “At that point you lose all the selfishness and what you’re going through to help others,” she said.

Step by step, Casey and Christel helped with recovery efforts. Christel and her family were able to return to their home within a week. Associates at stores throughout Sonoma County have continued to serve their communities through the fires, in addition to preparing for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas.

“Since then, we’ve been trying to keep in stock what our customers need — housewares, socks, pillows, sleeping bags – these things keep coming in and coming off the shelf right away,” Casey said.

Christel and Casey were two of hundreds of associates who helped pull off a recent episode of The TODAY Show’s “Getting to the Heart of Christmas” series. In recent years, Walmart has had the opportunity to work with NBC to help deliver Christmas for families in need, particularly like the 10 families affected the Sonoma County wild fires earlier this year.

The event brought hundreds of associates, themselves affected by the fire, together to serve their community.

“Everyone here knows someone affected by fire,” Christel said. “Being able to work for a company that’s making a difference in the community, and being part of it personally, is rewarding.”

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Heritage

The Valentine Love Story Behind the Walmart Brand

Before a fledgling family-run retail chain flourished into what it is today, there was a simple and sweet love story.

On Valentine’s Day in 1943, after serving a year of active duty in the Army, Sam Walton married his wife, Helen, in her hometown of Claremore, Oklahoma.

In his book, “Sam Walton: Made in America,” Sam says on an April night in a bowling alley in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he noticed Helen Robson – his future bride – who just happened to be on a date with another fellow.

After she took her turn and rolled her ball down the alley, she saw Sam with his leg up over the armrest of an old chair, with a smile on his face. She recalls Sam’s greeting as being rather “corny.”

Helen said Sam asked if he had met her somewhere before. It turns out Sam had dated a girl Helen knew in college. Instead of asking for Helen’s number, Sam initially asked Helen for the other young woman’s number. However, according to Helen, soon after that encounter, Helen and Sam started dating.

Both Helen and Sam have said they instantly fell in love with each other. Sam said Helen was “pretty and smart, and educated, ambitious and opinionated and strong-willed – with ideas and plans of her own.” After dating for a little while, by the time Sam was called up by the Army for active duty, he said two things were very clear to him: He knew who he wanted to marry Helen, and knew he wanted to go into retail.

From there, the rest of their story went down in the retail history books. “I always told my mother and dad that I was going to marry someone who had that special energy and drive, that desire to be a success,” Helen said. “I certainly found what I was looking for, but now I laugh sometimes and say maybe I overshot a little.”

To commemorate their anniversary, The Walmart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, honors their love every Valentine’s Day with a special flower display.

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Innovation

Your Shopping Trip Just Got Easier with This New Store Assistant

Smartphones have become a vital part of our lives, helping to make virtually everything faster and more convenient. No matter what we’re doing these days, relying on our favorite apps is almost second nature.

That’s why we’ve been applying this kind of thinking to shopping, by building tools and features within the Walmart app to save you time on everything from prescription pickups to merchandise returns. But we also know that we can do even more. This week, we’re releasing a handful of new and improved features to the Walmart app that not only help you get in and out of the store quickly, but also help you before you ever leave the house.

All of these new features come together under something else that’s new: a totally re-imagined experience for in-store shopping called Store Assistant. Next time you visit your local store and open the app, you’ll notice that the Walmart app transforms into Store Assistant. All of the tools you need to make shopping fast and easy, such as Walmart Pay, will be right at your fingertips. We’ve also made the product search bar and the scanner easier to find, so you can quickly read reviews, find items in store and double-check prices.

Pretty neat, right? Now, let’s dive into the other new features that are part of Store Assistant:

  1. Smarter, Better Lists: Eighty percent of Walmart customers make a list before coming to the store, so we’ve made list-building within the app more convenient for you – like the ability to enter a custom term like “milk” (in other words, no need to pick an exact item match) and check item stock at your local store. The total cart – plus tax – will now be calculated as you make your list, allowing you to see the cost of your basket before even stepping foot inside the store. Store Assistant makes your list easily accessible, so you can see what aisle the items are located in, as well as cross off and add items as you go.
  2. Improved Store Navigation with Store Maps: We’re creating a map unique to each and every one of our stores – and with over 4,700 of them, this is going to be a real game-changer. These maps will help you find where an item is located, down to the aisle and shelf area. Store Maps is already available for a handful of stores, and we’re rolling it out to the rest of our stores just as fast as we can.
  3. Even More Store Information: You can now easily check whether a store has a department like a Photo Center or Auto Care Center and see department hours and phone numbers. We’ve also taken this a step further by adding other valuable information – such as checking for things like Rug Doctor availability – to make your store shopping even easier.

Of course, these are just the updates we’re launching this week; there’s much more to come. Imagine dropping pins on a store map tied to the location of items on your list, enabling you to plan your route through our stores, or the ability to book services like an oil change in advance. Imagine even smarter lists … maybe so smart that you’ll hardly have to make them!

We’re building a shopping tool unlike any other in retail – and one that makes virtually every element of the store shopping experience faster and more convenient for you. We’re excited about the Walmart app updates we’re launching this week, but we’re even more excited about what’s to come. With the Walmart app, shopping our stores is seamless, easy – and pretty darn cool.

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