Fayetteville, Ark. - Walmart is well-positioned to compete in a multichannel world of in-store, online and mobile commerce, president/CEO Mike Duke told attendees at the company's annual meeting here this morning.
As per tradition, the event was held at the University of Arkansas' Bud Walton Arena and featured a mix of management addresses and big-name entertainment.
The latter included actor Will Smith who served as host, and performances by singer-songwriter Alicia Keyes and and hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, whose female vocalist Fergie thanked Walmart for being one of the few retailers to still stock CDs.
The five-hour gathering also included an address by Duke, who outlined five corporate priorities to win over "the next generation customer" including growth; everyday low costs and prices; winning in global e-commerce; developing a world-wide talent pool; and helping people live better lives through such efforts as fighting hunger, making healthier foods more affordable, and supporting sustainable agriculture.
Duke, who has come under fire for Walmart's middling financial performance and weak U.S. comp store sales, said the next generation customer is "connected to the world through smartphones and social media," he said. "They're in charge of when they shop and how they shop, and they know who has the lowest prices ... With our stores and low prices, we can really take advantage of mobile technology and this era of price transparency. We can combine our stores, our systems and our logistics expertise into one continuous channel to drive growth and serve the next generation customer around the world."
Walmart also used the opportunity of the shareholders meeting to debut its first mini Express Store, in rural Gentry, Ark., and to announce renewed plans to repurchase upwards of $15 billion in Walmart shares. The buyback would further consolidate the founding Walton family's control over the company by giving them a greater than 50-percent ownership position.