Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Wal-mart’s global workers talk sales…and soccer

June 2, 2010

merchantsWal-Mart management and about 1,200 workers from around the globe gathered in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for a spirited, pre-shareholder meeting pep rally.

Their message? “We are merchants!”

The employees, who are tasked with helping to grow company sales, reiterated that point multiple times. 

But they also asserted their love for soccer and excitement over the sport’s upcoming World Cup tournament scissor-kicked its way into several country presentations.

Managers from countries ranging from Brazil and Mexico to India and China, laid out plans to boost sales for Walmart’s international division, which grew 11 percent last year to top $100 billion for the first time.

brazilRepresentatives from soccer-obsessed Brazil, which had 2009 sales of $10 billion, introduced their colleagues to their ”end-to-end” sustainability effort that, among other things, resulted in greener packaging for Band-Aids and Neve toilet paper. But the highlight of the presentation was their soccer-themed entertainment.

While more mature markets like the United States, United Kingdom and Japan work to save costs and boost sales with in-store promotions and low prices on everyday items, developing markets in Central America also are focusing on basic issues like food safety.

Infrastructure is an emphasis in China and India, where managers work directly with local farmers to establish sustainable farming methods and provide a safe and reliable supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

China, which has about 290 stores in more than 100 cities, started its Direct Farm program in 2007. It already partners with 350,000 farmers and plans to increase the number to 1 million by the end of next year, China President and CEO Ed Chan said.

Several executives, including those representing Argentina, Central America, Brazil and the United Kingdom, peppered presentations with claims of soccer supremacy but that wasn’t the case when Canada President and CEO David Cheesewright took the stage.

“There are many wonderful things about Canada,” he said. “Our soccer team is not one of them.”

(Reuters photos)

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