Wal-Mart execs talk change at annual meeting
Fayettville, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores president and CEO Doug McMillon told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on Friday that the company would accelerate the pace of change going forward. Presiding over over his first shareholders’ meeting since being named chief executive, McMillon put a big emphasis on technology, saying that the chain needs to be “at the forefront of innovation and technology.”
“Customers will increasingly expect and require the best of both worlds,” McMillon said. “They want the excitement and the immediacy of shopping in a physical store and the freedom to shop whenever, however and wherever they want. They want an experience that seamlessly adapts to their life. Walmart can bring together our stores with new digital commerce capabilities to help customers save money, save time, and have access to what they want and need.”
The annual meeting, which drew some 14,000 Wal-Mart associates from around the world, was held in the Bud Walton arena at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In keeping with past shareholder meetings, the event was star-studded, starting with entertainer Harry Connick Jr., who served as the host. The event also included performances by top artists Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke.
McMillion said the company will serve customers through three core principles.
“First, we will be a customer-driven company,” he said. We’ve always said the customer is our boss and we’ll make decisions based on how we can serve them better, Second, we will invest in our people. As we change and grow, it will be our associates who will make the difference. Finally, we need to be at the forefront of innovation and technology.”
The retailer envisions a future where it is uniquely positioned to win at the intersection of digital and physical. To do so, McMillon and other top executives described how the company is making acquisition and investments in its global eCommerce organization and big data analytical capabilities even as it continues to expand its brick-and-mortar footprint.
“We are integrating digital retail and physical retail to create one seamless, customer-driven Walmart experience. This is providing our shoppers with more value, more time, and greater access,” said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce.
The retailer’s ecommerce business is on track to grow to about $13 billion this year from $10 billion last year, but McMillion and Ashe were adamant about the opportunity to go faster.
“Our stores, 11,000 and growing, will provide access and convenience. If you need it right here, right now, we’ve got it,” said McMillon. “We will run great stores and clubs with great associates. We’ll keep adding services and pick-up points to our stores to become even more convenient. We’ll also strive to have collection points wherever our customers want us to be, and we’ve seen the demand for food delivery in places like the U.K., Mexico and China. And of course, we’ll keep improving our traditional e-commerce offering of ordering online and shipping to customers’ homes.”
McMillon said that Walmart will develop new capabilities to serve customers in new ways.
“It is important that we all understand the shift that has happened in technology and retail, what it means for us and what we’re doing to win. There’s a lot of innovation and opportunity available to us.” McMillon said.
Former Nike exec named CEO of Spanx
Atlanta — Shapewear wholesaler and retailer Spanx announced that Jan Singer has been named CEO of the company. She joins Spanx from Nike, where she held various senior leadership roles, including corporate VP of global apparel and corporate VP of global footwear.
Singer, who will report to Spanx founder and owner Sara Blakely, is expected to come on board in early July. Gregg Ribatt, interim CEO, will assist Singer through a transition, and then continue to serve on the company’s board of advisors.
“Jan’s role in helping to lead and innovate at premium, global brands across the apparel, footwear and beauty industries, combined with her deep understanding of the consumer, make her the perfect fit for Spanx,” said Blakely. “I’m confident that she will transition from the locker room to the fitting room seamlessly.”
Prior to NIke, Singer served as the VP and general manager of Reebok’s women’s business.
NRF: Labor fears drive higher retail imports
Washington, D.C. — Import volume at major U.S. container ports is expected to increase 7.5% in June as retailers bring unusually high quantities of merchandise into the country early to avoid any potential disruptions after the labor contract with West Coast dockworkers expires. According to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates, in June U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker are expected to handle 1.46 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEU), up 7.5% year-over-year.
One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent. May was estimated at 1.47 million TEU, up 5.8% from the same month the prior year. In April, the most recent month for after-the-fact numbers, major U.S. container ports handled 1.43 million TEU, up 10.3% year-over-year.
U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.43 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. The number was up 9.9% from March and 10.3% from April 2013. One TEU is one 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.
July is forecast at an even-higher 1.51 million TEU, up 4.4% from last year; August at 1.52 million TEU, up 1.9%; September at 1.45 million TEU, up 0.8%; and October at 1.48 million TEU, up 3.4%.
The first half of the year is expected to total 8.3 million TEU, up 6.5% from the first half of 2013. The total for 2013 was 16.2 million TEU, up 2.3% from 2012’s 15.8 million TEU.
The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting 4.1% sales growth in 2014. Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales but is a barometer of retailers’ expectations.
The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union began negotiations last month on a new contract to replace the agreement that expires June 30. NRF has urged both sides to avoid any disruptions that could affect the flow of back-to-school or holiday merchandise.
West Coast ports handle more than two-thirds of U.S. retail container cargo, including the bulk of cargo from Asia. The last major coast-wide shutdown there occurred in the fall of 2002, closing ports for 10 days and creating a months-long backlog to be cleared.
“We don’t want to see disruptions at the ports but retailers are making sure they are prepared in case that happens,” said NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “Whether it’s bringing cargo in early or other contingency plans, retailers will keep the shelves stocked for the back-to-school and holiday seasons.”