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Wal-Mart To Enhance Worker Training, Customer Focus

Fayetteville, Ark. — Wal-Mart will build on its strong performance in a down economy with improvements in training, sourcing and the customer experience, president/CEO Mike Duke told attendees at the company’s annual meeting here today.

In his first shareholder address as chief executive, Duke told a crowd of 16,000 at the University of Arkansas’

Bud Walton Arena that the company has had strong performance and will “seize the moment” to make further strides with its business and customers.

Among its goals are enhanced training and development of the company’s workforce, continued cost reductions through improved global sourcing and purchasing, and better alignment with customer needs.

“We need to be obsessed with understanding customers in every market we operate in. And we need to serve customers however they want to shop — whether it’s on a mobile phone, a laptop or in a local store,” he said.

Duke said the economic crisis has brought a fundamental shift in consumer attitudes and behavior, and described a “new normal” in which people are more concerned about saving money. But the company’s initiatives are building long-term loyalty, he noted, so customers will continue to shop Wal-Mart even after the economy improves and they have more discretionary dollars to spend.

Business aside, the meeting also had its customary share of celebrities, including entertainer Miley Cyrus, who will launch her own fashion line with Wal-Mart this fall; music legend Smokey Robinson, who preformed with American Idol winner Kris Allen; basketball great Michael Jordan; and actor Ben Stiller, who hosted the meeting.

The following are excerpts from Duke’s prepared remarks:
* “We’ve improved our merchandise. The products and services and brands that our customers want are on our shelves.”
* “We’ve improved the store experience. Customers are able to shop our stores quickly and conveniently and with the help of friendly associates.”
* “We’ve reemphasized price leadership. Customers know that when we say our prices are unbeatable, we mean unbeatable.”
* “We’ve strengthened our formats around the world. Customers are getting the experience that they want, and we’re getting the efficiency that we need.”
* “We also need to see ourselves and conduct ourselves not as Goliath, but as David — not as a giant, but as a nimble and innovative competitor in every market.”