MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

BJ’s Wholesale Club partners with 215 schools for 19th year

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Westborough, Mass. — BJ’s Wholesale Club announced partnerships with 215 schools through the organization’s Adopt-A-School program. At the beginning of each school year, every BJ’s Wholesale Club and Distribution Center partners with a local school to help enhance existing curriculum.

Schools participating in BJ’s Adopt-A-School Program receive a one-time, $500 donation, which goes toward discretionary programs, such as field trips and special events, reading programs or other educational needs. The schools also receive a complimentary BJ’s Membership.

"Helping to provide kids with exciting learning opportunities like meeting penguins up close, exploring life-size models of dinosaurs and reading the best of Dr. Seuss are some of the many reasons why we support local schools," said Jessica Newman, assistant VP of community affairs and communications at BJ’s Wholesale Club.

Now going into its 19th year, BJ’s Adopt-A-School program has provided $1.7 million in funding to thousands of schools.

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New Walmart fact-checking service launched

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart’s opponents employed a new tactic this week by launching a repository of negativity under the auspices of The Center for Media and Democracy.

The clearly left-leaning organization bills itself as non-partisan but the tone and substance of its newly created Web resource suggests otherwise. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) launched its new web resource on Thursday, the same day Walmart reported second quarter results and hosted its second annual U.S. Manufacturing Summit. The resource is positioned as a profile on the company with details about pay and policies, lobbying and political contributions, environmental impact and efforts in veteran hiring and domestic sourcing.

“Walmart likes to say it is committed to supporting families, communities and our economy, but the facts often tell a different story,” said CMD executive director Lisa Graves. “This new resource gives reporters and consumers the information they need to understand the true nature of Walmart’s business practices and the effect the company’s decisions have on U.S. manufacturing, workers and other aspects of our economy.”

Those comments hardly sound like the organization is committed to providing facts related to Walmart.

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Rising expenses are a good thing for Walmart

BY CSA STAFF

In the alternative universe where Amazon resides, surging expenses that eat into the company’s profitability are viewed favorably. If Walmart were afforded the same treatment its stock would have surged after it was revealed increased labor, health care and e-commerce costs eroded second quarter profits.

Operating profits at the Walmart U.S. division fell 2.4% to $5.25 billion and the culprit was increased labor expenses and healthcare costs. Walmart is spending more on labor to improve the store experience and more employees are taking advantage of the retailer’s health plan, which indicates Walmart’s benefits aren’t as horrible as critics suggest. The company’s overall profits were also dinged by increased expenses related to e-commerce, essential investments for any retailer with a long term orientation.

“Operating income was pressured by investments in additional associate hours and by higher health-care costs. We’ll keep working during the back half of this year to get the combination of price investments and store associate hours right to deliver improved comp sales and serve our customers in a way that exceeds their expectations here in the U.S.,” said Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. president and CEO Doug McMillon.

The increase in labor expenses was intentional, the rise in health care costs, not so much, according to Walmart U.S. president and CEO Greg Foran.

“Healthcare costs increased approximately $180 million versus last year and were well above our initial estimates,” Foran said. “As we’ve mentioned previously, the primary drivers of expense growth were increased associate enrollment and cost inflation.”

That situation isn’t expected to change anytime soon.

“Near term, we expect continued pressure from health care and anticipate over $500 million in year-over-year expense growth for this fiscal year,” Foran said.

The intentional increase in store labor was focused on specific areas such as the front end, deli, bakery, and overnight stocking where Walmart has an opportunity to impact the customer experience. In total, salaries and wages increase more than $200 million compared to last year as there were additional costs related to the reset of key departments such as entertainment and sporting goods.

On the e-commerce front, Walmart said expenses increased as it continued to invest in broad areas such as talent, technology and fulfillment. The company expects to open its third fully dedicated e-commerce fulfillment center near Indianapolis in early 2015. More recently, the company rolled out its Savings Catcher price comparison app nationwide.

According to McMillon, Savings Catcher, “leverages our data analytics capabilities to automatically match competitors’ ads and strengthen customers’ confidence that they are receiving the lowest advertised price on like items.”

For Walmart, the rollout was largely unheralded. Hard to imagine that would have been the case if Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a similar capability.

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