Q: Why did you move from investment banking to the supermarket industry?
When I was exposed to retailing I fell in love with it instantly. I became fascinated with every aspect of the business, from the in-store excitement to associates to working with the broad array of products. Few industries provide the dynamic environment of retailing.
Q: What are the major challenges facing our industry?
I think that three of the key areas where we as an industry and as individual retailers need to continue to provide leadership are: food safety; sustainability, with a focus on packaging optimization; and promoting healthy food initiatives.
Q: What will the store of the future look like from a sustainability perspective?
Our commitment to sustainability is built around three broad and bold goals: to be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy; to generate zero waste; and to sell products that sustain people and the environment. Stores of the future will continue to raise the bar in terms of energy efficiency and waste diversion. Our new stores in Canada are at least 35 per cent more energy efficient than the stores we built five years ago, and some of our stores have already achieved zero-waste status. We are also piloting solar, wind and geothermal technology at select stores.
Q: With few exceptions, Walmart does well in every country and every business it gets into. Is there a simple formula you can point to and say “that’s why we’re successful”?
In every market Walmart operates around the world we are committed to saving people money so they can live better. This is a universal theme that appeals to pretty well all demographics and cultures. We are living at a time where customers throughout the world are more value-focused than ever before.
Q: We’re seeing grocers open smaller stores once again, even Walmart. Do you see this as a major trend?
As retailers we have a responsibility to tailor our stores and offerings to the unique needs of our communities. In larger markets this may mean a larger store, while smaller markets may require something different. Through our in-box conversion program we are now able to add a full grocery section within the existing store environment without expanding the store. We do this through careful reconfiguration of the departments, and have been able to leverage some of the experience from our UK operation around running highdensity stores, which enables us to reconfigure existing discount stores into supercentres.
Q: You’ve been quite involved with the Network of Executive Women (NEW), which has now set up a Canadian chapter. Why is this organization important?
Women comprise a big part of the retail industry and make more than 80 per cent of customer-purchasing decisions in our stores. Also, about 70 per cent of our associates are female. NEW is particularly focused on attracting female leaders in the retail and consumer-products industries.