Walmart sells inclusivity at its annual shareholder meeting
Retail, as they say, is detail. In today’s retailing world, many of those details go well beyond the fundamentals of buying and selling goods as is clear from reports of Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting, which was conducted virtually yesterday as a precaution to avoid further spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart chairman Greg Penner kicked off the meeting by noting “the extraordinary circumstances” that surrounded it. “There is the pandemic which we have been responding and adapting to for the past months, but also we are meeting under the shadow being cast by the violence of racism which is tearing at our country.”
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon addressed the pandemic and protests against racial inequality that have spread across the nation since the recorded killing of George Floyd while in the custody of police officers in Minneapolis.
On the pandemic, Mr. McMillon lauded the performance of Walmart’s associates.
“We are grateful to our associates from around the world. They are stepping up to serve our customers, communities and shareholders,” he said. “Our plan is to continue finding ways to help and serve. We’re thankful to have a strong and well-positioned business from which to do so.”
Mr. McMillon said more than 270,000 employees of the company’s 1.5 million workers have taken a coronavirus-related leave in recent months, according to the Journal. The retailer has hired over 300,000 workers to help it meet increased levels of demand since the outbreak of the virus.
Walmart reported a 10 percent gain in U.S. same-store sales during the first quarter as customers stocked up on food, consumables, health and wellness products and some general merchandise categories. The retailer’s online sales jumped 74 percent during the quarter as demand for delivery and curbside pickup of groceries grew.
Mr. McMillon also spoke of the protests following Mr. Floyd’s death.
“It’s important that we all understand that our problems, as a nation, run much deeper than one horrible event. The pain we’re feeling reminds us of the need to support each other and come together,” he said. “Until we, as a nation, confront and address these hard realities, we will never achieve the best of what we can be.”
Inclusivity, Mr. McMillon said, is “fundamental” to Walmart’s corporate values.
“We’re motivated to continue our work related to diversity and inclusion inside our company and to find ways to influence the various systems that exist in our country in a more impactful, positive and inclusive way,” he said.
Whether by choice or circumstance, Mr. McMillon has found himself weighing in on critical social issues since becoming chief executive at Walmart. Last year, he and his company dealt with several active shooter events, including one at a store in El Paso, TX where a gunman who said he was targeting Mexicans killed 23 people and injured a like number.
- Walmart Announces 2020 Formal Business and Annual Shareholders’ Meeting Voting Results – Walmart
- Walmart Goes Off Script at Annual Meeting – The Wall Street Journal
- Has the pandemic transformed Walmart into an unstoppable force? – RetailWire
- What has made Walmart a shutdown star? – RetailWire
- Walmart trains quarterly for active shooter events – RetailWire
- Is Walmart’s CEO the right leader for Business Roundtable? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How will the coronavirus and racial issues raised by the killing of George Floyd shape how business leaders view their roles and those of their companies going forward? Are there retailing and consumer brand executives and companies that you see as examples for how businesses should operate in and out of times of crisis?