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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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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Opportunity

These Vets Helped Each Other - Now They Pay it Forward

For veterans leaving the military, transitioning to civilian life can be a challenge, but Jarred Crabtree and Jeff Kowalik are determined to make it a little bit easier.

The two met in the U.S. Army, where Jeff was Jarred’s lead drill sergeant in basic training. An injury sent Jarred home earlier than he’d anticipated, but the two kept in touch over social media. When Jarred learned his former drill sergeant was leaving the Army, he knew he had to reach out.

Jarred had made the transition from military to civilian life twice before. After a time in the Army and seven years in law enforcement, he had become a market manager for Walmart’s Oklahoma City stores. He was still at Walmart when he rejoined the Army and met Jeff in 2010.

“When I injured myself, it was devastating,” Jarred said. “But the group of veterans when I came back was so supportive, I immediately felt better – like I could put all my energy and skills back into my job here.”

After 18 years in the Army, Jeff was medically retired and having the all-too-common experience of struggling to find...

Posted by Walmart Today on Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jarred wanted other veterans to experience the same kind of support and community he had, so he invited Jeff to come tour one of his stores in Oklahoma City, where they had several developmental co-manager positions open.

“I couldn’t think of anyone better for the role,” Jarred said. “I remembered Jeff’s leadership skills and his ability to lead diverse groups of people. He had the skill sets we needed.”

During his 18 years in the Army, Jeff had never had to look for a job. “When you leave the military, you have to remember how to do everything again,” he said. At Walmart, Jeff had to learn a new lingo and a new role, but he said it goes hand in hand with what he learned in the military. “The leadership, how hard you have to work, the service – there’s an honor behind what you do here.”

Jeff and Jarred are passionate about having other veterans join their teams at Walmart. They know the value veterans bring: professionalism, adaptability, teamwork, problem solving and ingrained leadership skills.

“If you want a job, all you have to do is come apply. You don’t have to start at the top, but with dedication and hard work, you’re going to move up,” Jarred said. “There’s so much opportunity, and it’s not just on the sales floor. With all the positions we have, whether it’s in operations, support, merchandising – when people realize what’s available, they’re amazed. You can lead people, and that’s what Jeff and I get to do every day.”

Now, Jeff mentors his team members at Walmart and in the broader veteran community. He works with the Veteran Support Foundation, which supports various veteran projects across the country, including helping homeless and disabled service members. He also maintains the veterans’ appreciation board at the front of his store, a photo display that recognizes associates who have served in any of the military branches.

“There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood that ties you together,” Jeff said. “When I came to Walmart, it was extremely heartwarming to know I had someone like Jarred, who was also military and also a leader above me who I could learn from.”

Jeff and his family have since moved to Houston, where he’s a co-manager of a Walmart supercenter, and his wife Jennifer is an assistant manager at another supercenter nearby. Meanwhile, Jarred was promoted to a director of implementation and sustainment. That means he’s now the main point of contact for Walmart’s central division of stores to ensure they’re operating successfully. But both veterans are taking what they learned and continuing to encourage other veterans around the country.

“Don’t give up,” Jarred said. “That’s the biggest message I’d want to get across to other veterans: there’s something out there for you. Ask questions. Don’t just apply online – come visit the store. Come talk to us, because you’ll find more people like me and Jeff who want you working with us.”

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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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