I’ve had a real good week. I’ve just returned from the Grand
Opening of our new Sam’s in Ferguson, North St. Louis, where General Manager
Bob Leary and team have hit the ground running. Not only did they break all
existing records for Sam’s in using the fewest associates ever in opening their
warehouse, but they were so well organized and productive, they broke all
previous records for total pre-opening costs as well. So, to our new partners
at Sam’s in Ferguson, we all salute you, appreciate you, and welcome you to our
great Wal-Mart partnership. May you continue to do good always, putting our
customers and their needs first.
The next day, I visited our fine stores in Troy, Louisiana,
Hannibal, and our newly relocated Store #25 in Mexico, Missouri, which had
recently been expanded to a 68,000-foot store. All are really outstanding
Wal-Marts with wonderful, caring Wal-Mart associates who are doing one great
job of serving their customers and their respective communities. The District
Manager for these stores is Clara Slater who is doing such an outstanding job
directing around 9 or 10 of our good Wal-Marts in Northeast Missouri. It seems
only a few years ago that I first met Clara (probably 12 years) in Moberly,
Missouri, where she was the Department Manager for our Hosiery/Lingerie
Departments. I remember well reviewing our Lingerie Department and asking her
what her best sellers where in the Ladies’ panty section. She impressed me then
by her knowledge and capacity, by getting out her order books and showing me
that she ordered regularly by rate of sale; she knew and took pride in what she
was doing. Soon, we were discussing how to develop a promotion and a VPI
program on her best number at that time – a 100% full-cut cotton brief. She did
it well and continued her journey through Wal-Mart as an in-store Assistant and
Manager at Macon, Missouri, until today, she has become one of our most
respected and capable District Managers. My hat’s off to you, Clara, and your
entire Wal-Mart team. We’re very proud of you all.
In fact, in thinking about the development of our Company,
I’m so pleased to see us beginning to recognize and promote women to
responsible positions of management throughout Wal-Mart. For years, retailing
management was considered the exclusive province of men. That’s not so today.
Wal-Mart’s Executive Committee realizes that we have a tremendous pool of
future management talent in the ranks of our women associates and has made the
commitment to train and develop them to the fullest.
I’m convinced that our Wal-Mart women associates have
unlimited opportunity to advance and assume top management responsibilities in
our Wal-Mart organization. In my opinion, there is not a single management job
in our Company that can’t be handled effectively by women who have the
training, determination, ambition, and capacity to do it.
Let me visit with you about another very important subject –
100% customer satisfaction. It is so very important for our continuing success
as a company. We’re so fortunate that
our customers believe in you and Wal-Mart as they do. I hear it constantly from
them as I make my store visits. They appreciate your friendly attitude, your
caring, and willingness to help them with their needs, over and above. They
tell proudly they just enjoy shopping in our stores period, because of you and
the way you carry out our philosophy of: RULE #1 – THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT
and RULE #2 – IF THE CUSTOMER HAPPENS TO BE WRONG, REFER TO RULE #1.
What a franchise we enjoy in this retailing world today with
our customers who, for the most part, feel it is “their store” and know they
will be treated fairly, honestly, and with respect. We must not lose this
valuable franchise. We know we must constantly teach and reinforce the basic
principles with our associates to cause it to continue.
Again, let me quote from some material our Director, Bob
Kahn, sent me recently on this most important subject. This mostly was material
Bob wrote in his newsletter back in 1968 which I probably read and believed
even them, which is as right today for us as it was 20 years ago.
Principle: “No retailer (except auto dealers and some
appliance stores) ever make a profit on a transaction, they only make a profit
on a customer.” I would add that a dissatisfied customer is generally lost
forever to us and probably with a host of their friends as well. It is a proven
fact – it costs five times more to gain a new customer as it does to retain a
Statement 1968: (This I believe and our Company’s success
has proven it to be so.) “The introduction of the computer in retailing is
tending to produce the myopic merchant of the future who in the long run must
lose our to the fundamental merchant of the past and his progeny.” Let all of us in Wal-Mart continue to think
and believe we’re merchants, even if we do choose some occasional losers,
such as our outstanding President Dave Glass with his key chains and our head
merchandiser Executive Vice President Bill Fields and his Crackling Oat Bran
Cereal. I’m being facetious and jealous probably for, as of now, David and his
key chains are ahead of my $1.00 can of peanuts. But, the race isn’t over. The
truth is, if we’re aggressive and merchandise driven with all our associates
throughout Wal-Mart, we’ll make mistakes, but on balance, we’ll win because we
learn and correct.
Principle: “The nicest sounding word to any person is his
own name, especially in this day when computers are making numbers out of all
of us. You know this; I know this.” My associate friends, are we doing all we
can in Wal-Mart, Sam’s, dot Discount Drug, in calling our customers by their
name? Let’s do it. You alone can decide best how to in each of your stores.
“Let’s go for it” and every opportunity, whether it be from a check, credit
card, membership card, or simply by introducing yourself and saying, “Your name
is what?”, “Thanks for trading with us”, or “Please come back.” I’m sure we can
do this much better than we have.
Principle: “Little things make big impressions.” So, get
your people to do the little things for your customers. Bob goes on to tell
about his wife, Patty’s visit to two food stores the same afternoon. Each time
she forgot to take in a returnable bottle on things that had a 5 cent refund.
The carryout clerk from the first store saw the bottle in the back of the car
and did nothing. The second clerk asked if she wanted to turn it in, then took
a nickel out of his pocket and gave it to her, and took the bottle back to the
store. The point it, his wife regularly thinks better of the second store, but
the real difference is in the second person. What a lesson for all of us, and
makes and even stronger case for us to believe and practice: “Our People Make
So long, my friends, for now. This is probably too much, but
maybe one idea will help us all to do better and cause our wonderful customers
to continue believing in you as a person as well as in the fact that Wal-Mart
truly believes and practices “THE CUSTOMER IS #1.” Good luck.
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