FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Walmart used its 2016 shareholders meeting to drive home the message that the customer is boss and the key to the retailer’s ability to grow.
“Our mission is clear,” Doug McMillon, Walmart’s president and chief executive officer, said at the June 3 Walmart annual shareholders meeting. “We save customers money so they can live better.”
McMillon beseeched the 6,000 company employees from Walmart stores and clubs worldwide who attended the meeting at the Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas to return to their stores and engage with customers.
“They are the reason we’re in business,” McMillon said. “What I believe is, you can make a difference in their lives, and I ask you to go do it.”
Walmart will continue to use its size and influence for the good of its 2.3 million associates, the 260 million customers it serves weekly and the global communities in which it operates, McMillon said.
Doing the right thing allows Walmart to grow, despite its huge size, he said. Walmart, which took in $482 billion in revenue last year, foresees revenue growth of between $45 billion and $60 billion over the next three years.
As an example of doing what’s right for associates, McMillon noted that 250,000 employees received promotions last year. And Walmart is investing in workers’ wages and training. The company invested about $1 billion last year and expects to invest about $1.5 billion this year to raise base wages to at least $10 an hour and expand training programs.
McMillon said Walmart is improving customers’ lives by saving them time as well as money. The company is developing grocery pickup and delivery services in 11 countries and is making the service available in about 40 markets in the United States.
Walmart Pay — a fast, easy and secure way for customers to pay with their smartphones — is available in nearly all Walmart stores, he said, and the company this month announced a partnership with Uber, Lyft and Deliv to test same-day grocery deliveries.
“We’re moving fast, and the pace is picking up,” McMillon said.
And Walmart continues to “act ethically in ways we can all be proud of” as it seeks to strengthen communities and protect the environment, he said. Walmart is working with farmers, non-government agencies and others to improve farming practices. The aim is to ensure that the world’s food needs can met without depleting the soil and fouling waterways, McMillon said.
Walmart’s 46th annual shareholders meeting was held as the company has seen same-store sales at its U.S. stores rise for seven consecutive quarters. In the majority of its international markets, comps have increased for eight straight quarters, led by gains in Mexico and Canada, said Brett Biggs, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Walmart.
“We’re bringing together great stores with e-commerce capabilities in ways nobody else can,” Biggs said. “There has been lots of change in my career at Walmart, but now is most exciting transformational time,” he commented.
Walmart is confronting the rapidly changing retail landscape from a position of “incredible financial strength,” with a “great” balance sheet and an impressive cash-flow situation that should allow the company to extend its streak of 43 consecutive years in which its dividend payout to shareholders has increased, Biggs noted.
Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., said the company has made great strides in transforming its grocery operations, especially around perishables.
“Nothing beats transforming a fresh department, adding color and vibrancy. I love doing it,” Foran said. “It’s really hard work and we’ve got more to do. But we’re making progress in delivering fresh food for our customers.”
Foran added, “We’re proud to be the world’s largest grocer, and we’re working hard to help customers save time so they can eat and live better.”
Greg Penner, chairman of Walmart’s board of directors, told the shareholders that Walmart’s transformation is producing a more agile company.
“Customer needs are quickly evolving, and Walmart is changing, too,” he said. “We’re moving away from serving customers where we are and toward serving customers where they are.”
Penner said the board is confident that Walmart’s leaders are navigating the company around the obstacles — complexity, bureaucracy and silos — that have bedeviled other large enterprises trying to adapt to change.