Walmart focused on serving ‘next generation’ customers

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — After nearly four hours of music, cheering, celebrity appearances and brief presentations by senior executives, Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke wrapped up the company’s annual shareholders’ extravaganza Friday morning by sharing five priorities associated with serving what he called the next generation of customers.

He touched on the company’s commitment to growth as priority one, with an adherence to the philosophy of everyday low prices and everyday low costs as the second priority. Further acceleration of efforts in the area of global e-commerce was mentioned third, followed by the need for talent as the fourth priority. Lastly, Duke said the fifth priority revolved around the concept of “live better” where Walmart leverages its size to make an impact on such pressing societal issues as hunger or sustainability.

“Our next-generation customer will include millions who are striving to join the emerging global middle class. They’re from the countryside around Punjab, India, and the blue collar suburbs of Sao Paulo, Brazil. They’re in the big cities, from the wards of Chicago to the boroughs of New York City," Duke said. "They’re connected to the world through smartphones and social media. They’re in charge of when they shop and how they shop. And believe me, they know who has the lowest prices.”

“They don’t want to have to choose between products they can afford and products that mean a better life, like sustainably grown local fruits and vegetables," Walmart's president and CEO continued. "They care about sustainability and like that we do too. They also have higher expectations for the role of business in solving problems. Only those businesses that solve problems will earn trust.”

Trust has long been a core element of Walmart’s value proposition, and, according to Duke, it is what will drive the company's ability to maintain growth worldwide and domestically. Doing so will require an unwavering commitment to, and the daily execution of, a strategy rooted in expense control. “To deliver EDLP, to drive growth and really churn the productivity loop, we have to be an EDLC operator. Over the past couple of years you’ve done a great job quarter after quarter of leveraging expenses,” Duke told the approximately 15,000 people who attended the event at Bud Walton Arena on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.

Duke then retrieved a copy of Sam Walton’s biography from a nearby podium and in a scene reminiscent of a preacher reading from a Bible, he shared a passage in which the late Walmart founder shared his thoughts on expense control. “Every time Wamart spends one dollar foolishly, it comes right out of our customers’ pockets. Every time we save them a dollar, that puts us one more step ahead of the competition,” Duke read from Walton’s book. “No one controls costs better than Walmart because we do it for the right reason.”

That reason, as attendees at the event were reminded repeatedly, is to save people money so they can live better. Duke added that it is going to take even more talent and dedicated leaders to deliver on that global mission in the future. “That means better training and greater opportunity for our store associates. And it means thinking globally and building teams that reflect today’s world. I also appreciate the progress we’ve made with diversity and inclusion. But we’re going to do more for women and minorities, and that’s a promise,” Duke said.