I'm on my way to Greenville, Ms., this morning at 7500 ft. – letting my autopilot do the work. Couldn't raise any volunteers for this trip – out two days, hopefully, in our Mississippi and Tennessee stores. However, gradually of late, I'm winning more and more converts to believe in me as a pilot! Ol' Roy, my bird dog, has believed for a number of years – in spite of the apparent professional jealousy that exists in some quarters of our Company!
Anyway it seems that a number of my Wal-Mart World articles have been written under these circumstances, and as long as all those other pilots keep out of our way, we'll be in great shape.
Bird season is approaching and I'm making a determined effort to visit as many stores as possible prior thereto.
Also, as you know, we have an unbelievable number of new stores coming on stream during this third quarter – 19, in fact, -- constituting about 900,000 square feet in space – almost double that of a year ago. So we all have our work cut out for us during these last two quarters.
The first six months came through in good shape on both sales and profits. Generally we are up in sales totally 34 percent, 11 percent in comparable stores, and 37 percent up in profits – not bad, against two of the best quarters in the history of our Company.
At this stage, even with the difficult figures in the third and fourth quarters, I wouldn't bet that our Wal-Mart partnership won’t equal them or beat those numbers by year-end.
Let me pass on a suggestion for us all that was shared with me by Charley Kempf, a nine-year loyal assistant manager at Jacksonville, Il., which is really showing some great increases. This is a guaranteed, sure-fire winning formula, and so simple, easy, and costs absolutely nothing to apply.
Don Bracht, manager, and his Jacksonville, Il., management team, have gone on an all-out effort to establish their store as the friendliest, most courteous place in town to shop. Further, our Jacksonville associates go out of their way to let our customers there know they appreciate their business. So simple and easy, but what great results have been achieved. Jacksonville, Il., is a hotbed of competition – K-Mart; Jack's, a strong independent; Tempo; and two good shopping centers in a community of 22,000, and it's one of our former Mohr Value stores. These fine people, on their own, decided to go all-out on this positive campaign – friendliness, courteous service, and appreciation of their customers. They plotted their strategy, and talked about how to do it in their store meetings. Do you know how much their sales were up last week – 150 percent over a year ago – led the Company! They've been running consistently over a 100 percent increase for several months now. I'm sure, too, it's not just the friendliness that’s getting all these results, but it must be a major factor. Some formula! My hat's off to our Jacksonville associates for setting one great example for the rest of us!
Let's all get on a similar program. The climate and attitude in our stores must be right. But there is a way, and it would be almost "illegal" if all our Wal-Marts could crank up a similar program within the next six months. Sales – profits – profit sharing – job security – would really soar in these last two quarters. Why not let’s do it!
I'm about to get lost up here and over-fly Greenville, so guess I better figure on getting this thing on the ground. My instruments say I'm south of course and about 40 miles out and it's a bit hazy.
Thanks for listening. I've got one additional comment, but will wrap it up later.
About that friendliness bit - in order to achieve it the store and its associates must actually reflect a happy attitude, have good morale and enjoy their work and their involvement with our Wal-Mart Company. And how is this achieved? Usually where we find a store with this priceless ingredient, you find a manager and management team that sets an example and really cares for their associates. They show it everyday in a hundred ways in a consistent manner.
Just back in the air from visiting our Greenville associates and how pleased I was to see the job being done by Manager Arlen Brown and team. One of those real good Wal-Mart turn-around programs going on in Greenville, and we'll be seeing excellent results soon.
While digging through our files the other day, I found a memo sent out only one year ago that makes the point well that's on my mind today. So if you'll bear with me, I'll quote in part. It, too, incidentally was written while I was flying. Maybe it's the "no telephone – no interruption" environment, but somehow it is a good place for thinking. Excerpts from Letter to Management –7/19/77:
"A well-managed store, by an involved, people-conscious manager, who spends most of his time on the floor, not in the office or breakroom – as a rule, does not have shrinkage, shoplifting and internal theft problems. Ask yourself 'why?' – I think the answer is self-evident. That store's personnel and assistants will follow that manager's example. He cares. They will care. The payoff for our associates and our Company, as well as for our futures, is immediate and continuous. Let's think on it.
"The above was written last Sunday afternoon at 8,500 feet as I was returning to Bentonville from visiting my father in Columbia, Mo. As usual, my autopilot, "George", was flying for me, and as usual, I had a few thoughts on my mind. About half-way home I decided to deviate to Pittsburg, Ks., and drop in on our associates at our Wal-Mart Store to see what goes on on Sunday afternoon on a hot July day. I borrowed a car at the airport and walked in unannounced.
"Briefly, a Big Sidewalk Sale was going full blast! I asked the young lady on the register what assistant was in charge of the store. She informed me Mr. Art Snook, the manager, was there. And he was there – #72 was right – busy and organized, with interested personnel in place and functioning. I told Art I was surprised to see him on Sunday afternoon and he quickly informed me he took his turn every third or fourth Sunday with his assistants, as he likes to know what goes on on Sunday.
"Needless to say, I had a good day, and I know you also have gotten the point - #72 is a winner; and thank goodness, in Wal-Mart, we have many winners. We've got many, many fine stores, managers and associates, but it takes total involvement and commitment on all of our parts to keep this wonderful Wal-Mart Company and program on top. We've some future if we don't drop the ball!"
Just wish you all could have been with me on my visit to Philadelphia, Ms., a new 30,000 foot Wal-Mart that went in last April. Without question, even now, one of the best new stores I've ever visited. Great people, who care about their jobs and our Company, and one of the best merchandised stores I've ever seen. As I’ve said on occasion, to see a Wal-Mart of this caliber is better than taking vitamins; so I've had, and am having, one, great day!
Running a little behind, as I’d like to get to New Albany and Corinth, both, before dark. Will wrap this up for now. Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you.
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