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Picture it: you walk into a store to go shopping. It’s light, bright, large and easy to navigate. The fruits and vegetables on display are tempting, their colors vibrant and appealing. There are stunning values everywhere, with no gimmicky prices. Store associates are engaged and helping customers. You get through checkout quickly and efficiently. And as you leave, you think, “wow, Walmart really is my favorite store!”

Walmart?

The scenario above comes straight from the mind of Walmart’s CEO, as he envisions what you will think of Walmart in just a few short years – even if you’re not a big fan now.

“We want this year to be the year of improving our stores,” Walmart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran told an investors conference last week. “So by the time we hit the holiday season, our stores are clean, tidy, well-merchandised and run by engaged associates. Today, in the main, we are not.”

And that’s been the challenge Foran has faced since he took the job eight months ago. Walmart has been hammered recently for everything from slow checkouts, to empty shelves, to the quality of its fresh food. And don’t get couponers started on some employees’ (lack of) familiarity with their own store’s coupon policy, and how to do an ad match.

Foran has promised to get Walmart on track. And last week was the first time he laid out his plans in such detail – and set himself a deadline.

“Let’s get ourselves this holiday season to a point where we are all proud enough to take our mother or grandmother into the store and say, hey, this is who we work for,” he said. “Our associates are engaged. I think it’s a really logical approach for us to take to get that fixed.”

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Speaking at the same event, Chief Operating Officer Judith McKenna outlined the key areas for improvement. “The three things that matter most to customers are clean, fast and friendly. And we are adjusting the way we operate to make sure we make those real priorities,” she said.

Foran promised to address everything from store layouts, to assortment, lighting and “even the temperature in some of our stores.” The quality of Walmart’s fresh food offerings also remains a priority. Foran said Walmart stores have begun a practice that’s commonplace among some other retailers – marking down fresh food that’s nearing its expiration date. The goal is to reduce waste, boost sales and get fresher food rotated in more quickly.

And don’t forget what Walmart is best known for – low prices.

Foran acknowledged that Walmart is not always the low-price leader – which you may know firsthand if you’ve ever gotten a rebate using Walmart’s Savings Catcher automated price matching tool. “In more competitive markets, our gap is too small and against some competitors, we are beaten,” he admitted.

A Wall Street Journal report just ahead of last week’s presentation revealed just how laser-focused on price Walmart has become. The story detailed how Walmart has been pushing suppliers to reduce their promotional spending in order to invest more in lower prices instead. The retailer even goes so far as to monitor commodity costs, then ask suppliers to lower their prices when the cost of the ingredients they use to make their products goes down. “I can assure you price remains every day part of our discussions and actions,” Foran told investors.

So will the Walmart of eight months from now really be an entirely different place? By the next year or so, will shopping at Walmart be so pleasant that it will become your favorite store? Walmart’s leadership certainly hopes so. “I believe that Walmart is the greatest retailer in the world,” Foran said. “I can tell you we are 100% committed to getting this thing, not just right for a year or two, but right for a couple of decades.”

Now if only every Walmart employee could figure out how to handle your coupons. In time, perhaps – but it appears that Foran has plenty on his plate already.

Photo by Random Retail

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9 Comments

  1. A walmart just opened up in our small town and it is horrible with taking couPons and ad matching. The GM is a real jerk. I used to only go to walmart now I drive further to target and continue to use HEB and CVS.

  2. Oh please, Walmart is a joke. They don’t even accept coupons and the manager can set the coupon policy, not corporate. Don’t care what the coupon policy is, if the coupon does not scan and the manager says can’t use them, then guess what you will not be able to use the coupons. Also the prices at Walmart are not that great, even higher than other stores, I get a better deal at Jewel Foods. The employees are just plain rude, can’t read, and don’t know anything. I have had some very nice employees help me, but unfortunately they are the exception. The stores look worst than thrift stores, the shelves are always bare and the products are basically destroyed. Was looking for some plastic containers and every container was damaged. I sometimes purchase basic items when I go there, which is once every other month, buy my total is always less than $10. If I want to do some real shopping I will go to another store. Hey, my local food store is even better than this hot mess.

  3. It’s just great to hear Walmart hired a CEO who figured out what retailers are SUPPOSED to do – and it only took him 8 months. Now figure out how to get customers and couponers back in the store, I for one won’t be one of them.

    Don’t need the hassle, don’t need to waste an hour to check out and don’t need to deal with non English speaking ghetto employees.

  4. Walmart is the armpit of the universe and I wouldn’t shop there if they were giving things away. The employees are low class, uneducated and unprofessional at best. Walmart should start by not hiring rejects and treating them as valued members of the organization. Secondly, they need to fix their system so that coupons scan on the correct items. I was seriously going to need bail money if one more ghetto employee flipped out over my using the correct coupon on the correct product, or argued their policy with me. I am a very busy person and I simply don’t have time to police their system or educate their employees on their corporate policy. The fastest way to deter me from shopping at a store is to waste my time and Walmart will not get the chance to waste one more minute of mine.

  5. Hmmmm… how nice. Meanwhile corporate is informing lead managers not to honor policies and if the customer fight give them 1 to get them out of the store. Again… not to mention they “mistake” the policies over and over at the same store. Walmart is a scam and a shame!

  6. Rayshawn Person says:

    I HATE GOING TO WALMART. THERE IS USUALLY TOO MANY PEOPLE, NOT ENOUGH CASH REGISTERS OPEN AND THE SHELVES ARE NEVER STOCK. THE PRODUCE AND MEAT ARE NOT FRESH. I USED TO GO FOR THEIR PRICES BUT I FOUND OUT I WAS PAYING MORE THAN MY LOCAL GROCERY STORE WHICH DOUBLES COUPONS. WALMART HAS BECOME MY LAST OPTION FOR GROCERIES.

  7. For ten years I did my family’s grocery shopping at Walmart thinking I couldnt afford to shop elsewhere. I started couponing about 8 months ago and honestly it was awful couponing at Walmart but I just tolerated it the best I could. Just before Christmas at checkout, a young Walmart employee, turned to me and loudly and rudely said, ‘these coupons are fake’. I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. My coupons were not fake but her scanner wasn’t working correctly. I left and took my business to Publix. I guess that rude young woman did my a favor. I save far more money now, using Publix bogos, adding in their coupons, Target coupons (which my Publix accept) and manufacturers coupons. The store is always clean and well stocked. The staff are wonderful and friendly and knowledgeable and NOT ONCE has a coupon been turned down! I dont care what Walmart do, Id never go back.

  8. My big issue with Walmart is how untrained the cashiers are on their own policies. Walmart has some great programs — price matching competitors, for example — that turn into a massive hassle at checkout when the cashier is unfamiliar with the details (and sometimes hostile with the customer as a result.) Developing fast, friendly, and knowledgable employees would make Walmart more appealing to me as a shopper.

  9. It all starts with doing right by their employees. If they realize that, Walmart will be a much better place to shop / employees will be more motivated. For an example, look at Wegmans.

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