Message from Sam Walton
I’ve really enjoyed my recent trips to some of our stores,
as well as seeing some good new Wal-Marts hit the street during February,
March, April. In fact, through the first
ten weeks, we’ve opened the following stores, and they all look like winners.
No. 213 – Litchfield, Illinois (relocation & expanded)
No. 258 – Tupelo, Mississiippi
No. 279 – DeQueen, Arkansas
No. 1 – Rogers, Arkansas (32,000 expansion)
No. 277 – Moore, Oklahoma
No. 283 – Bridge City, Texas
No. 37 – Farmington, Missouri (16,000 expansion)
No. 90 – Grove, Oklahoma (25,600 expansion)
No. 306 – Arab, Alabama
No. 252 – Duquoin, Illinois
No. 295 – Eureka, Missouri
No. 19 – Poplar Bluff, Missouri (22,400 expansion)
No. 318 – Arkadelphia, Arkansas
No. 48 – Monett, Missouri (15,000 expansion)
We welcome all you new associates into our Wal-Mart family, and as I’m prone to say...... may we be partners for many years to come.
I’ve visited with our associates in the following stores in the past three week, and enjoyed every minute of it: Blackwell, Guthrie, Norman, Moore, Sallisaw, Muskogee in Oklahoma; DeQueen, Camden, Magnolia, Nashville, Malvern, Benton in Arkansas; Natchitoches, Winnfield, Jonesboro in Louisiana; and Bridge City, Texas. The fun part of our business is merchandising, serving our customers, and getting to know and appreciate one another. As I’ve often said – one good store visit for me is better than a dose of Geritol, One-A-Days, or whatever! We’ll either have to cut down on our new on our new store program or I’ve got to be “subdivided” somehow, as my announced goal of visiting each of our stores on an annual basis becomes more difficult – 284 and growing! I more than ever appreciate the great job out District Managers, regional Vice Presidents, Tom Jefferson and Jim Rountree are going to keep in touch with you all, and I know you appreciate their efforts also.
Our Profit Sharing Trust reports were mailed last week, and if you are like me and qualified for profit sharing, you were pleased with the numbers. On the average, we all had at least a 42 percent appreciation in Profit Sharing over the previous year. Many of you had more. I visited with an eleven year associate in Columbia, Mo. Last Saturday who showed me her Profit Sharing statement proudly – it increased from $3600 to $6300 - $2700 in one year. Yes, we really had a great year in 1979, and I hope we can repeat in 1980, but at this point, it will be a much more difficult year for us all. One thing to note – we can’t expect to have these kind of increases each year in our Profit Sharing, as we had an abnormal gain in our Wal-Mart stock in that 1979 year. However, if we run our Company right, and that means you, me, and the other 22,000 Wal-Mart associates, we should be able to achieve a 20 percent compound growth rate during the next ten years, or for the 1980’s. We shouldn’t’ settle for less, should we?
Some real clouds are beginning to show on the economic front at this time, and I’d like to share these concerns with you. Our Wal-Mart Company, our jobs, and our future are on the line. And depending on how we react and roll with the recessionary climate that is building, will determine whether or not we will remain a financially strong, durable company with a future with job security and opportunity for all our associates.
Our sales trend definitely slowed in March and these first two weeks of April. Our March sales were up 8 percent in comparable stores, and we’re about 7 percent up during these first two weeks in April. This is the lowest sales increase in a comparable basis we’ve had in several years. There seems to be no questions but that the consumer is being more selective and cautious with their spending, and that because of the factory closings, the increasing cost of gasoline and cost of living, plus the ever increasing interest and inflation rate, we’re all in for some stormy weather. In my opinion we can look for a fairly deep recession this year, and I don’t believe we’ll see much improvement until late fall or 1981. I hope I’m wrong and that conditions will normalize to some degree before then, but I doubt it.
I’m confident though that our Company can do well even in a recession. And we can if we have the discipline and dedication to tighten up and control all aspects of our Wal-Mart programs.
Our advantages are many, and we should count our blessings. Our part of the United States should be least affected by a full blown economic downturn. Our customers know Wal-Mart will save them money when they buy from us. “Our Policy Guarantees it.”
In the past during economic dips, we’ve actually gained customers, and I think we can again, if we deserve to. But you probably know as well as I what we need to do during this period to stay competitive as a Company and increase our share of the markets we’re in. As I see it, let me list a few things we need to do.
First, we must keep our prices low – the best prices in town across the board. We must not only claim to “sell for less” but we must do it. To do that we must be more efficient, more productive, more dedicated than the other retailers on the street with whom we compete. The Woolcos – K-Marts – Magic Marts – Gibsons – TG&Y – Alcp’s – Matco’s – Kuhns – and all independents are faced with the same dilemma, and in turn – almost all are getting better.
We must lower our cost of doing business or control our expenses, and you could probably list about twenty items that would help in that respect in each of your areas. Productivity is the word. We need to use less numbers of people per dollar of sales to win this race. I say we can, as we have better people and we care for one another and are partners in one great business – Wal-Mart!
If so, let’s all get with it. Let’s don’t put up with half-hearted effort at any level of our Company. Let’s don’t take more time on our coffee breaks than is allotted. Watch those supplies – turn out the unnecessary lights. Let’s figure out daily better ways to serve our customers at the cash registers. Let our customers know we appreciate them. By all means, keep in-stock on all basic and seasonal merchandise, but don’t overbuy. That 4.3 turn is essential with money costing 20 percent. The list could go on and on, but each of you – individually and collectively – will write our Wal-Mart story for us in 1980 and the years to follow.
I’m confident we’ll come through and do what has to be done to keep our Company strong during the rough months ahead. If you come up with any exceptionally good ideas on merchandising, expense control, or customer service, that will help us throughout Wal-Mart - as always – communicate – let us hear from you. Drop Mr. Shewmaker, Mr. Glass, or myself a line. Let’s cinch up and ride tough. We may even have to wear a pair of Wrangler jeans and one of Mr. Jolosky’s cowboy hats with a feather in it!
However, on second thought – couldn’t we ride as “tough” waving a “Bed Mate” mattress pad in each hand?!? Good luck, my friends – and keep up the good work!