In opening remarks at the company’s 20th Annual Meeting for the Investment Community, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., President and CEO Mike Duke said that the company is focused on near-term execution to grow comp sales in Walmart U.S., improve returns in Walmart International and leverage expenses for the full year.
At the same time, he said the company is making substantial or, in some cases, even “step-change” progress in key areas, including leverage initiatives, capital discipline, e-commerce, compliance, talent recruitment and corporate responsibility.
“We have delivered consistent growth and returns to shareholders for many years, and we will continue to do so,” said Duke. “No matter what environment we’re in -- today, a year from now, or five years from now -- we are driven to win. And we’re never satisfied at Walmart until we do.”
Focus on Near-Term Execution
Acknowledging the challenging retail environment, Duke said: “We’re in a tough and unpredictable global economy. The competition is also tough. And the holidays are right around the corner -- raising the stakes even further on serving customers and delivering on performance. All of this is to say that near-term execution is critical for us.”
Duke started with the priority of growing comp sales at Walmart U.S. He said, “When you go to our stores, you’re going to see fantastic new merchandise, aggressive investments in price through lots of rollbacks and better in-stock levels. We’re focusing on execution to deliver results.”
Duke also discussed returns in Walmart International, saying the company could improve “even in places where we’re already doing well.” Duke said that the division recently assessed its portfolio and made important strategic decisions on current operations. “These actions, combined with capital discipline and e-commerce investments, will deliver a solid framework for future growth and improved returns,” added Duke. “Walmart International is a great business that we are only making stronger.”
Duke then turned to a company-wide goal he set at the annual investors’ meeting two years ago: reducing operating expenses as a percentage of sales by at least 100 basis points over five years. “We made progress on that goal last year, and our goal is to deliver leverage again for this fiscal year,” said Duke.