Wal-Mart’s annual shareholders’ meeting today has been the typical mix of entertainment and business.
British actor James Corden, who is hosting the meeting, said, “When my agent called and said, ‘Would you fly to Arkansas to host Wal-Mart shareholders, I said, ‘Stop. You had me at fly to Arkansas.'” Welcoming the Chinese contingent in the audience of the Bud Walton arena at the University of Fayetteville, Corden said, “It’s the 20th anniversary of Wal-Mart in China, or as I call it, The Great Wall-Mart of China.”
Turning serious, Corden said, “You guys have been on a roll. Sales are up, it’s incredible.”
Brett Biggs, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Wal-Mart, offered more details. “Total revenue for this year is over $482 billion,” he said, adding, “Last October we said we anticipate growing sales by $45 billion to $60 billion in three years.” He said the company is on track to achieve that goal. “We generated $27 billion in operating cash flow last year, increased the dividend for the 45th year in a row, and our board authorized a $20 billion share repurchase program.”
But global e-commerce sales have been growing more slowly than the company would like, 7 percent in the recent first quarter, and the international division has had mixed results with net sales declining 7.2 percent in the first quarter.
Investments in associate wages, technology and store standards are producing results, Biggs said, noting that Wal-Mart U.S.has posted seven straight quarters of positive comp-store sales and six consecutive quarters of positive comp traffic.
Biggs asked associates to “help us grow sales. Growing sales could mean giving a shopper a smile and making sure shelves are stocked. We’ve always been focused on the bottom line. We need to cut back on things we just don’t need. Can you help us manage expenses?”