But one of the benefits I got in being on the finance side was a really thorough understanding of the profit and loss and balance sheet and how that all hangs together. It enabled me to take strategy and pull it apart and say: “Well, what are the objectives? And what are the prices we’ve put in place to be able to achieve those objectives?”
What were the biggest changes you made in stores and in warehouses as a result of the pandemic?
There was a lot of tactical decisions we had to make very early on: metering people into the club, the request for associates to wear masks, health screening every day, plexiglass that we had to put in appropriate places, decals on the floor. There was just such an exhaustive list.
We also wanted to give members confidence that they could trust our standards. Like, “Let’s make sure that in the first 10 feet of walking into Sam’s Club, they see us wiping down a cart.” We’re spraying them outside, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the member knows that they’ve been sprayed down. So let’s make sure that we also wipe them down so that the member knows they can have confidence.
How are you dealing with the issue of masks at a moment when states are lifting restrictions?
When a member turns up at the club, we will ask them to wear one. We will have one there to offer to them. If somebody is adamant that they don’t want to wear one, then we will continue to offer it to them.
What we’ve been trying to do is protect the safety of our associates and make sure that we’re not putting them into a conflict point. We’ve tried to make sure that we de-escalate and contain issues rather than have them escalate. I would say a majority of members comply. Most of them, if you ask them once or twice, will put a mask on.
How have people’s shopping habits changed over the past year?
We have seen periods that we called “carbs and calories,” where people would just buy up pizza, ice cream, potato chips. It was almost like they were looking for indulgence in food that they couldn’t get through experiences outside of the home. We’ve certainly seen a resurgence in people nesting and home improvement, yard improvement, outdoor entertaining. People are like, “How do I make my home my castle?”
Help me understand why it’s hard for a company like Walmart to get to the point where it’s supporting a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
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