Remarks as Prepared for Mike Duke
Thank you, Mario and Michell, so much for being here. What a great Walmart family story. And I hear that Brittney couldn’t join us because a third generation Guajardo Walmart associate is expected soon.
When I look out on the associates in this arena, I know I’m looking at a strong Walmart. I’m so proud of the work that you do, and it’s reflected in the success of our company. Last year, earnings per share were up 10.6%. We added $22 billion in net sales. And free cash flow was up 18.1%.
And I just love this fact: As Charles said, at this time last year, our stock was up 26% from the year before. And this year, we’re up another 17%. That means, over the past two years, Walmart has delivered to shareholders our best overall return in stock performance and dividends in more than a decade. Doesn’t that performance make you proud?
When it comes to our businesses, last year, Walmart U.S. – you added $10 billion in net sales and delivered positive comps for the second year in a row. Walmart International – you contributed nearly 30% of our net sales while adding 19 million square feet of new retail space. And Sam’s Club – you passed $56 billion in net sales.
We’re also showing that our long-term business strategies are right and working. Our expense management is driving EDLC and EDLP. We’ve leveraged expenses as a company for the last three years, and we’re committed to making it four in a row. And the investments we’ve made in e-commerce are really paying off. It’s amazing to think that this year Walmart will generate $10 billion in global e-commerce sales.
None of this success would be possible without the heart and hard work of our associates. You are the reason Walmart is strong and getting stronger all around the world.
I’ve learned a lot about our associates during my 18 years with our company. I love how you care for each other like family, especially in times of need. You take such pride in going above and beyond for your customers. And you work hard every single day and take advantage of the opportunity that our company provides.
Associates join Walmart for so many different reasons. Many have high school diplomas or certificates from training centers. They know they can get a start with us and go as far as their talent and hard work will take them. Some associates come to us for part time work and end up as store managers. College students come to us looking for work experience and a chance to develop new skills. We also have PhDs who want to work with the most sophisticated systems and biggest data anywhere in the world.
No matter how you came to Walmart, we’re 2.2 million people working together and building something very special -- in our company, our communities and our own lives.
Walmart is a path forward and a ladder up. That’s true for our associates, and it’s true for our customers. When I look out on the world, whether it’s Hoover, Alabama or Dalian, China, I see Walmart helping tens and even hundreds of millions more people save money and live better. What the Next Generation Customer wants and expects is exactly who you are and how you do your jobs.
You operate with integrity. Our company was founded on integrity. And over the past year, we’ve strengthened our compliance programs by training tens of thousands of associates, hiring more experts and making significant investments in our systems. For Walmart, compliance is an absolute. Make no mistake about it -- we will do the right thing.
That starts with the decisions we make as individuals. Let me tell you about one associate, René García. He runs the electronics department in Store #631 at Walmart Chile. Recently, vendors came to his store twice to inspect how their products were displayed. Each time they wanted to see better placement and more inventory. In exchange, they offered to send René what they called a gift.
René informed the vendors about integrity and said he wouldn’t accept any gifts because of Walmart’s policies and strong cultural values. René, you set the example for integrity not just in Chile, but everywhere our company operates. Let’s appreciate René.
Walmart associates believe in service to customers. There are a lot of people out there who really count on us -- to make sure that Christmas is special for their kids, or that a healthy meal is on the dinner table at night. Believe me, it all adds up. For example, customers participating in ASDA’s price guarantee program are approaching a half billion dollars in savings over shopping at our main competitors.
What makes the biggest difference is how you take care of each customer. A few months ago, I received a letter from a customer named Mary Wilkinson. Late one night, Mary found herself stranded on a dark highway with a flat tire. She was driving her son home from college so he could visit his dying grandmother one last time.
The only place open nearby was a Walmart Supercenter in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Although the Tire and Lube was closed, the overnight assistant manager, Nikki Piatt, said she’d find a way to help. And she sure did. At 3:00 in the morning, Nikki got a tire on the car, and Mary and her son back on the road. A few hours later, they were at the grandmother’s side. As Mary said, “I almost think Nikki was an angel put there to help us get home.” Let’s appreciate Nikki for being an angel of an associate.
Walmart associates treat each other and their communities like family. Every year you volunteer literally millions of hours to charity. And I know you’re especially proud of our company’s work to fight hunger. Thanks to your dedication over the past seven years, Walmart is the first Feeding America partner to give away 1 billion meals to hungry families.
Walmart associates are also known for being there during times of crisis. On April 17, in the town of West, Texas, Michael Lundberg was eating dinner at home when a fertilizer plant exploded and leveled the surrounding area. He immediately jumped in his truck and headed to the scene.
At a nursing home next to the plant, Michael helped triage the injured out front and then went inside to pull people from the rubble. Once first responders arrived, he went to a nearby apartment building and evacuated another injured man to safety. Michael is still volunteering his time to help the victims of the West, Texas explosion.
Like others who rushed to help that day, Michael Lundberg is a hero. But let me tell you what else he is -- he’s a Sam’s Club associate. He’s the grandson of a 23-year associate, Kay Lundberg. And he’s a high school senior. Today, he’s flying back home to graduate from high school. And next month, he’s joining the Marines. Michael, when you get back from serving our country, I’ve got a job waiting for you. Let’s appreciate, Michael.
We have high expectations of you, our associates. But I want you to know that I also have high expectations for how our company treats you. That’s why we listen to our associates constantly. We know we’re not perfect. And we know that juggling life and work -- the economics, the scheduling, the expectations -- is often tough.
Can we find ways to offer associates more hours when we have them, more flexibility if they need it, and more training to help their careers wherever life takes them?
Can we do more to build an entryway to a job and career for those who really look to us for opportunity -- like young people or people restarting their careers?
Can we be a laboratory for learning and create credentials of accomplishment that associates can lean on to advance their careers?
Nothing makes me more proud of Walmart than when I hear about the opportunity we provide our people. And I want the world to see it. So I brought some friends with me this morning who are going to join me on stage. They represent just a fraction of our associates here and in stores around the world.
First, we have associates here who started in hourly jobs -- including cashiers, stock clerks and cart attendants -- and are now part of store management. You represent the 75% of Walmart’s U.S. store management teams who started as hourly associates.
Second, we have associates who have been promoted into jobs with more responsibility and higher pay. You represent the 180,000 people at Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club and the thousands more around the world who were promoted last year.
Third, we have associates here who have attended a retail training center or received a Walmart scholarship. You represent our commitment to increasing training and career opportunities, including for 1 million women around the world.
Fourth, we have associates who have served in the Armed Forces. Thank you for your service. You represent Walmart’s commitment to hiring 100,000 U.S. veterans over the next five years.
Fifth, we have associates who have been with Walmart for more than 10 years. You represent the 300,000 associates who are making a long-term career at Walmart.
This is the real Walmart and the real opportunity we provide. Let’s give these associates one more round of applause.
When in comes to our careers, what we all have in common is that we started somewhere. And what matters most is that we get the chance to go as far as hard work and talent will take us. I believe this: No company provides more opportunity to more people to go from where they are to where they want to be than Walmart.
Integrity, service to customers, family and community, the opportunity to build better lives for ourselves and our customers -- these are the ways that our people make the difference. They’re why you’re so special. And they’re why I’m so excited about Walmart’s future.
I’m honored to lead Walmart’s associates. I’m honored to be a Walmart associate.