OPERATIONS

Wal-Mart CEO details progress on key strategies at annual investor meeting

BY Marianne Wilson

Rogers, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores is focused on near-term execution to grow its same-store U.S. sales, improve returns in Walmart International and leverage expenses for the full year, company president and CEO Mike Duke said Tuesday at the company’s 20th annual meeting for the investment community.

Acknowledging the challenging retail environment, Duke said: “We’re in a tough and unpredictable global economy. The competition is also tough. And the holidays are right around the corner — raising the stakes even further on serving customers and delivering on performance. All of this is to say that near-term execution is critical for us.”

Duke said that shoppers will see “fantastic new merchandise, aggressive investments in price through lots of rollbacks and better in-stock levels” in Walmart stores.

“We’re focusing on execution to deliver results,” he noted.

Duke said the company is much more streamlined in how it makes real estate decisions and invests capital. He highlighted the stronger performance of new stores and progress in bringing down the cost to build, expand and remodel stores, and also touted the progress that the company has made in e-commerce over the past year.

“The biggest opportunity we have is winning the intersection between physical and digital retail around the world,” Duke said. We’ve never been more connected across the company on e-commerce, and our results demonstrate this.”

In the first half of the year, Walmart’s e-commerce sales grew 30% globally, including a strong performance at Yihaodian in China.

Duke said that progress was made last year on a company-wide goal he set two years ago to reduce operating expenses as a percentage of sales by at least 100 basis points over five years, and that the company is committed to delivering leverage again for the current fiscal year.

Highlighting the long-term areas where the company is making progress, Duke said investments in leverage initiatives are paying off around the world. For example, the U.S. logistics team is reducing shipping costs and increasing transportation efficiency, a single process initiative is generating significant savings in labor productivity in China, and the company has migrated all but one market in Latin America to its Costa Rican Shared Services Center.

Duke also said that he was very pleased with the work Wal-Mart has done to make a difference on big global issues.

“We’ve only accelerated in the past year — with our commitments on renewable energy, to reduce certain chemicals in products and to help revitalize manufacturing in the U.S,” said Duke.

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OPERATIONS

Macy’s stores across U.S. to open on Thanksgiving for first time

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York – In a sign of just how competitive the upcoming holiday season is expected to be, Macy’s said that most of its stores will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening. It’s the first time in its history that the company will be open for business on the holiday.

Macy’s said the decision to open on Thanksgiving night was “consistent” with many other retailers. And to minimize the impact on associates, the retailer said it began planning early to allow associates the time to review available shifts throughout the holiday season, including on Thanksgiving weekend, and to volunteer for the shifts they prefer.

The macys.com e-commerce site will also be open all day Thanksgiving and consumers can get the first look at select Black Friday specials on Macy’s Pinterest starting Oct. 15.

In addition, beginning Nov. 21, customers will be able to use the Macy’s mobile app to view Black Friday specials on their mobile devices and create customized shopping lists that can be edited and shared with friends.

“Black Friday is the biggest shopping event of the year and brings with it a level of fun and excitement to our customers around the nation,” said Peter Sachse, Macy’s chief stores officer. “For Macy’s, it’s important to make this day enjoyable and convenient for everyone, as our customers search for great deals on favorite wish-list items. Shopping at Macy’s on Black Friday means having the opportunity to purchase the most sought-after products at unbelievable savings.”

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Study: Luxury shoppers have high expectations

BY Dan Berthiaume

Denver – Consumers who shop at higher-end department stores and boutiques expect impeccable presentation whether purchases are made in-store or delivered to them, free shipping and returns, and locator services. According to a new study of 1,000 women who earn more than $75,000 annually by luxury retail packing and shipping solution provider Wrap & Send, 65% spend more than $100 at a physical retail store per month and 57% often purchase items in a physical store and have the store ship it to them.

The survey also found that:

  • 93% of respondents feel that it is very important for a store to offer free returns.
  • 76% state that package presentation is an important feature when receiving a purchase shipped to them.
  • 38% feel that the most important shopping feature is the ability to locate sizes and colors at other locations and have it shipped to them.
  • 77% think that it is important to choose their type of free delivery services such as ground, two-day or overnight shipping.

"Luxury retail consumers are getting more and more with their purchases, free shipping, free returns and a beautiful product presentation,” said Mike Jamali, president of Wrap & Send Services. “This has lead customers to expect these services from all high-end retail stores. When a store doesn’t live up to the set level of expectations, the customer feels under-appreciated compared to the store that offers these services. Product presentation and expert delivery are the last areas for high-end retail stores to convey the full customer experience. Also, as the omnichannel trend expands through this market, we are seeing a larger demand from customers to have the store locate sizes/colors at other stores and have those items shipped to them."

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