FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — Walmart is holding its annual Shareholders meeting Friday morning (June 1) at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Actor, musician and comedian Jamie Foxx is the host this year. Foxx took part in the event in 2009.
Foxx started the event with selfies on stage with associate’s from Walmart’s Sam’s Club division and leading the crowd in chants and cheers of “Walmart” vs. “Sam’s Club.”
Chairman of the Board Greg Penner welcomed the more than 14,000 guests to the shareholders meeting.
“I was on the peak of Mount Everest 10 days ago,” Penner told the crowd. He started by describing his adventure, and used it as an analogy for the work and dedication of Walmart’s associates.
“This incredible year that we’ve had, that we’ll describe and discuss today, is all thanks to you,” he said.
Penner said grocery pickup, one of their newest services that started with just 2 percent coverage in 2014, will cover 70 percent of the country by the end of the year.
Penner discussed the recent acquisitions of Jet.com and India’s e-commerce giant Flipkart, saying the acquisitions are helping grow the company’s e-commerce exponentially. He said the company has also been working to reduce food waste, and had reduced more than 100 million units of food waste last year.
Penner also introduced the newly elected Walmart board of directors, including new director Stephen J. Easterbrook, president and CEO of McDonald’s Inc., who was elected to the board this week.
Walmart’s Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs took the stage next. He described the company’s growth, including the 3 percent growth from the Sam’s Club division and its U.S. e-commerce division, which grew 44 percent last year.
Biggs said the company hit $500 billion in revenue this year.
“We have all the assets in the world to win,” he said. “We’re disrupting retail again. We’re making decisions to set this company up to win for decades to come.”
Grammy-winning country music performer and season 3 winner of “The Voice” Cassadee Pope then took the stage to perform for the crowd.
Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart E-Commerce U.S., was introduced after Pope’s performance. He started by praising the division’s growth.
“Forty-four percent e-commerce growth last year, and we expect 40 percent more this year,” Lore said.
Lore discussed the re-design of Walmart.com, its growing Pickup services and its new delivery service, which is being tested in several markets. Lore said delivery is expected to be in 100 markets this year, covering 40 percent of the U.S. population.
Grammy-nominated pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen then performed her new single, “I Really Like You,” followed by the song that made her famous, “Call Me Maybe,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2012.
President and CEO of Sam’s Club John Furner discussed Sam’s Club’s growth, including the latest figures that showed a 5.2 percent increase in comparable sales for the quarter compared to the same time last year.
Greg Penner returned to the stage and discussed Sam Walton, who would have been 100 years old. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart Stores Inc., died in 1992. He then introduced the Walton family members in attendance, including Sam’s children Alice Walton, Jim Walton and S. Robson “Rob” Walton.
Penner and the Waltons then presented the Sam M. Walton Entrepreneur Award to Lupita Morales, the vice president of the Superama format of stores for Walmart Mexico. Morales help to create the new store prototypes, which will expand across the country this year.
She accepted the award from the Walton family with her own family coming to the stage to congratulate her. Foxx then serenaded her and called her back to the stage briefly for a curtain call.
Foxx entertained the audience by imitating Ray Charles, who he played in the 2004 movie “Ray” and won an Academy Award for best actor, and pulled members from both Walmart and Sam’s Club divisions onto the stage to dance along to his rendition of “Gold Digger.” The music morphed into “This Is How We Do It,” and Foxx brought Alice, Jim and Rob Walton to the stage to dance with the crowd.
Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., discussed Walmart’s “great innovation.” He discussed some of the changes the company has made over the last, including changes in the bakery. The subtle design changes, from transparent packaging to wicker baskets to hold fresh bread instead of standard shelves, are designed to “send a message” to the customer of the quality of the products.
Foran discussed the innovations to the store’s apps that improve customer experience from checkout to product returns. He also discussed the company’s Flexible Automated Sorting Technology (FAST) system, which he said has made sorting and inventory more efficient.
“When it comes to innovation, I think about winning,” Foran said. “And when it comes to winning, [Walmart] is definitely that place.”
Talk show host and comedienne Ellen Degeneres spoke in a recorded video and thanked Walmart for helping her to give more than $4 million in donations to charities, organizations and individuals in need.
Judith McKenna, president and CEO of Walmart International, was introduced to a rousing cheer, particularly from the international teams in attendance.
“We’ve recently announced big decisions in the U.K. and in India,” she said, referring to the planned merger of Walmart’s UK Asda stores with Sainsbury, Walmart’s competitor in the grocery business there, as well as to the Flipkart acquisition in India. “And they were the right decisions.”
She discussed the Massmart academy, which offers educational opportunities for associates.
“In the U.S., we’re graduating more than 30,000 associates every month in the academy’s training program,” she said.
She also discussed the company’s moves to reduce food waste worldwide, including using technology to keep better track of the food from the farm to the store shelves and how long it takes to get there.
“Around the world, we’re using advanced analytics and data to determine exactly what inventory we need for the story and when we need it,” she said. She said the company is using technology to improve its food sourcing and transparency. Last week, McKenna said, the company introduced a new initiative in China where customers can scan a QR code and find out where the food they are buying is sourced.
“We don’t choose between what’s good for our communities and what’s good for business,” she said. “Every day, we choose what’s good for both.”
McKenna was followed by a performance by the X Ambassadors, who performed their song “Unsteady,” from the band’s album “VHS.” The followed it up with their song “Renegades,” which was nominated for “Top Rock Song” at the Billboard Music Award in 2016.
Mason Ramsey, the 11-year-old who became a YouTube sensation for singing and yodeling in a Walmart and launched a singing career that included, introduced President and CEO Doug McMillon.
“Our goal was never and isn’t to be big. Our goal is to be the best,” he said. “We are a growth company…we just happen to be a big one.”
He said more than 270 million customers shop Walmart’s stores per week. But he said the company is dedicated to helping in the communities. He praised associates for helping communities affected by natural disasters last year, including those in Texas, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
McMillon discussed the new solar and wind projects, stating that 35 percent of the company will be serviced by renewable energy by the time the projects are complete.
“Our customers care about these issues, and they want to feel good about shopping at Walmart, and they expect us to do the right things,” he said. “And we welcome that.”
McMillon used a timeline to show the changes Walmart has made to sustain growth since 2015, from acquiring Jet.com and partnering with JD.com in China to promoting Walmart Pay and Scan and Go technologies stateside.
“We’re experimenting with virtual reality to create amazing new shopping experiences,” McMillon said. The company is also testing autonomous vehicle and other new technologies to improve customer experience.
McMillon discussed the company’s initiatives to promote education and training, and announced to the crowd the company’s new program to help associates earn a college degree through select colleges for $1 per day. The program was announced Wednesday after the company’s business meeting.
Sam Walton himself addressed the crowd through holographic technology.
“Let’s be listening to one another in every way that we possible can, and helping one another,” the hologram told the crowd.
McMillon addressed the crowd from the floor afterward.
“We could just be happy that we had a good run and keep doing things the same way, but I don’t think that’s what Sam Walton would have done,” McMillon told the crowd. “There is so much room for us to grow. Let’s go do it together.”
Furner welcomed Foxx back to the stage one last time and thanked him “for not making me sing or dance.”
The event was closed out by a performance by singer/songwriter Jason Derulo, who performed his international hit “Colors,” followed by his Billboard hit “Want You to Want Me.”
Participants were lining up as early as 5 a.m. to get a seat inside the arena on the University of Arkansas campus in anticipation of Walmart’s annual meeting. Participants represented Walmart stores worldwide, including groups from Canada, Nigeria, India and Mexico.
To watch a recap of the meeting, click here.