More Experimental Concepts to Come from Wal-Mart

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart is going full-speed ahead with more experimental stores, including concepts catering to Hispanics, Baby Boomers, and rural customers, said c.e.o. Lee Scott Friday at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s 36th annual shareholders meeting.

While much of the mainstream coverage of the meeting dwelled on the Broadway musical trappings, complete with show numbers featuring actors riding around in shopping carts, the real meat of the meeting was management's stated firm commitment to change and the continued rollout of supercenters in the U.S., market, on pace to meet its goal of 270 to 280 new supercenters this year, including seven more in California, where many communities have tried to block Wal-Mart stores.

"Wal-Mart is undergoing a transformation. And it's real," Scott said. "We are changing more rapidly and profoundly than we ever have. We're building stronger relationships with the working families who are our associates and customers. And the changes we are making are delivering results for our company."

Offering an example, Scott said sales per square foot at the new urban Evergreen Park store, just outside of Chicago, are 25 percent above sales at other stores in the area. He also pointed out that at the new experimental supercenter in Plano, Texas, gross profit per linear foot is 24 percent higher than the average store.

In the coming months, he said, Wal-Mart will build more experimental stores as it attempts to broaden its appeal to Hispanic, rural, and Baby Boomer customers.

Scott also revealed new figures that show Wal-Mart now has more than 176 million customer visits worldwide each week.

Scott outlined the five pillars of the "Wal-Mart Out in Front" plan, which is how the company has labeled it transformation strategy. The pillars are: broadening its appeal to all customers; becoming an even better place to work; improving business operations and efficiency; driving growth in the company's international business; and making unique contributions to the community.

Friday's shareholder's meeting was not without negative attention, however. Some shareholders complained about the high compensation of top executives compared to lower-level store employees, while others called on the company to disclose its political contributions and advocate humane slaughter for chickens. The latter two proposals were rejected, according to the Associated Press.
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