Published on: August 8, 2011
Responding to last week’s piece about an internal memo conceding that Walmart’s traffic is down over the past six months, and another piece noting that Apple Stores cheerfully put up with a guy doing things like bringing a goat into the store because, hey, he also might buy a computer, one MNB user wrote:I think you missed a point this morning on Walmart. I agree with all of what you said on issues regarding traffic. However, the piece before that was about Apple and the goat. Now, what do suppose would have happened if the dude with the goat walked into a Walmart Supercenter?
That, IMHO, is what is wrong with Walmart’s traffic.
Another MNB user wrote:Having worked for WMT from 1980 to 1995, …stockman, assistant manager, store manager, buyer,… I’ve seen the merchandise and merchandising change radically…as it should.
Two of your readers commented about “service” and “poor execution”... both remarks are talking about people.
I’d suggest that whatever WMTs clouded and multi-directional future efforts may be, if they would simply make a concerted effort to improve the morale in their stores, any plan would have a higher degree of success.
Back in the day…when they had dynamic leaders, Mr. Sam, Jack Shoemaker, Don Soderquist, associates WANTED to excel! They WANTED to help customers, they were excited about the opportunities they knew were ahead for both the company and themselves.
Anywhere in the country you went, the cashiers were friendlier, you could find sales associates…and they were actually EAGER to help you. Those leaders never gave a speech without praising the job the associates were doing to make it all happen.
I wondered if perhaps I was simply being wistful about the “good old days” and that workers today just don’t care anymore. Then you go into an Apple Store, Trader Joe's, Firehouse Subs, and other organizations who are known for their people forward attitudes… Great people are and always will be available, but you have to find them, train them, let them know how important they are, and treat them as such. Until WMT addresses this with a passion, customers will continue to go elsewhere, as will their best workers.
WMT has plenty of wonderful workers today that no longer care, simply because management has shown little concern for their issues at store level. If you are in the store, on the front lines, and as an employee you cannot satisfy your customer because of “policy”, it kills your spirit.
If management were to stop fidgeting with new and different “Plans”, establish a direction, and included their people in a meaningful way, almost ANY plan would work. As the largest employer in the world….you would think they would understand this better.
Another MNB user chimed in:This is an unscientific sample of "ones" - one person, one store location about one mile away (about as far as I am willing to travel to shop at Walmart). At least at this location out of stocks are so high that I estimate they are losing 5 to 10% of potential sales for that reason.
Let me suggest something radical here.
Maybe it is time for Walmart to split itself up. Create four companies. US stores. Online. Sam’s Club. And International. And maybe they ought to be run out of four different places, not just Bentonville. Maybe it has gotten to the point that too many of Walmart’s leaders are living in the same neighborhoods, shopping in the same stores, golfing at the same country clubs, sending their kids to the same schools and attending the same churches. Maybe it has all gotten so insular that nobody is thinking outside the Arkansas box, despite their best efforts.
Maybe it has all just gotten too big. Sure, Sam Walton ran a different kind of company, but it was, in fact, a different kind of company. Maybe in 2011, if he were still alive, Sam Walton would be encountering exactly the same kinds of problems.
It is possible that Walmart has people issues, but it also may have structural issues that need to be resolved. And maybe it can only resolve these issues by rethinking what the company should look like for the next generation, and not be inhibited by legacies or structures or real estate.
Maybe that’s what every big company has to do, and as one of the biggest, Walmart has to do it more often than most.
Maybe it has to do it constantly. You know. Always
Michael Sansolo wrote a piece last week illustrating the limits of a GPS system, and suggesting the importance of still being able to think and reason and not become too dependent on technology.
MNB user Mike Franklin responded:We still have to think??? Weird! This was one of your best.
Another MNB user wrote:As testimony to Michael’s article, we were driving from SF to play tennis with a group of IGA grocers in Colusa Ca.
Our driver was using his GPS and announces “here we are.” But instead of being at the grocery store meeting place, we were at the county fairgrounds, in front of the livestock pens. The amazing thing is our driver without looking around, really thought we were at our destination!!
On another subject, one MNB user offered:I live in a small town of 5,000 just 20 minutes away from a metropolitan area. When Movie Gallery shuttered all of its stores, we lost our only source of movie rentals in our community.
We are DISH Network subscribers and have been continually unimpressed with the selection and pricing of their pay-per-view movies and only use their service when they have given us coupons for free movies. Further, we do not wish to subscribe to our overpriced cable company for high-speed Internet access and we make do with much cheaper DSL service provided by our small local telephone company. Our DSL speed is not favorable for downloading movies or attempting to watch TV shows and movies in real time on websites such as Hulu, etc. I share all this because we read more and more about people eliminating satellite or cable services as a cost-savings measure and going to the Internet to watch television, first-run movies, etc. I believe there are many rural areas like ours that do not have (and will not have any time soon) the technology to access the Internet at the speeds necessary to effectively utilize services like AppleTV.
Last month I happened to stop by the local truck stop on the edge of town to pick up a drink and was greeted by a Redbox-imitation sitting just inside the front door. There were three people waiting to use it. The owner of the truck stop said it was one of the smartest things he could have added to his store as he now had local residents visiting his business to rent movies; he knew they were people who would likely never visit his truck stop for their other needs and lived nearby. He said his customer count was up quite a bit and was looking to add similar movie rental dispensers at his other locations. Needless to say, I waited in line, opened my account and rented a movie for that evening.
While Internet streaming may be the future of how we watch television and movies, for some of us it may be years before we have the technological support to take advantage of it. Redbox and its competitors should have a market for their services for some time to come.
Finally, last Friday I noted that the day’s MNB was going to look a little different because I was taking the day off to attend a family wedding and would not be using my usual 10+ stories and commentaries.
However, I wrote, we would be running a special Sansolo Speaks
as well as Your Views
, “just so you can get a little bit of your MNB fix.”
One MNB user apparently was offended by this turn of phrase writing:You must have an ego the size of Connecticut!
True. I do.
However, on the scale of things, that’s not so bad, since by land mass, Connecticut is something like the 48th largest state. Out of 50.
And since I’ve got 22,000+ subscribers, and the list has been growing this summer by more than 100 each week, I figure that some folks must be reading, and that I owed them an explanation.
(I may do the same thing this week or next, simply because it is August, Michael Sansolo has said he’ll do an extra column, and I kind of enjoyed the three day weekend.)
This email did have other result, by the way. My daughter happened to read it over my shoulder when it came through, and she got all excited, calling out to Mrs. Content Guy, “Hey Mom! Dad got hate mail!”
I explained to her that this was not hate mail. Just healthy skepticism from a reader who thought it was important to let me know at 12:51 AM EDT
on Friday that MNB was not nearly as irreplaceable as I thought it was.