But we’ll operate two separate brands with two
Why keep the brands separate?
Jet has appealed to more urban, Millennial, and higher-income customers than Walmart has. And it has relationships with some brands that might not want to sell
Although Walmart recently raised wages,
the company still faces reputational issues.
How are you dealing with that?
We start with reality and try to focus on what we can
do to make Walmart an even better company. And after that, we’ll talk about reputation. I’m really proud
of our work in environmental and social sustainability—including the commitments we’re making on
greenhouse gas. If the world knew what we’ve done
for the past 10 years and what we’re doing to make
things better holistically, I think our reputation would
be dramatically better.
How do you respond to the lingering charges that
Walmart mistreats its workers?
My first job with Walmart was unloading trucks in a
warehouse. Then I worked as an assistant manager
in a store, and I was lucky enough to get into our
buyer-training program. I loved merchandising and
had a career path that led me through Sam’s Club
and Walmart International. I’ve had more opportunities in this company than I could have dreamed of.
There are hundreds of thousands of people like me
who have had that experience. But we haven’t been
perfect. We’re trying some fairly dramatic changes to
make the ladder of opportunity more real for everybody and to really create the meritocracy that we’ve
aspired to have all along.
How do you do that?
You have to set the bottom rung, that place where
workers get started, at the right level so that a college
kid or someone who wants to build a career has an entry point. And then you have to space the rungs appropriately, with the right kind of support, so that people
can climb as high as they want to go. We have invested
in wages, in training, and elsewhere to create a system
that can help you go as far as your capability and work
ethic will take you.
Are you looking for a different kind of employee
The future of retail will include more technology. We
And you think Walmart’s version of a dual model
already have handheld units on the floor, and today
more data is available for people to use. We need store
associates and managers who can operate handheld
devices, do analysis, ask questions, receive data, and
basically run a store within a store. Imagine you’re
trying to run a great toy department within a Walmart
Back then people were getting deliveries over the
newly established railroad system. And then this in-
novative company called Sears, Roebuck came up with
the idea of setting up outlets and became a combined
store-and-catalog business, focusing on assortment,
value, and service. The stores were close to customers,
who could get what they wanted immediately—and we
know that humans like instant gratification.
can beat Amazon’s?
As a retailer, we’ve had fun watching what Amazon
has built. The site is really cool. It’s an innovative marketplace: Customers save time and get an assortment.
So how do we continue what we’ve been doing yet also
create these things ourselves? Our goal is to copy what
we should copy, invent what we should invent, and
end up winning by changing what we do and how we
do it—without changing who we are. We’ve done a lot
of introspection in the past few years, and we feel that
our purpose, values, and culture are timeless. History
shows that most retailers don’t survive disruptive
change, but we’re confident that we can make it.
How is the digital transformation going so far?
What’s the biggest challenge?
Speed. If you compare our e-commerce business with
almost anybody else’s, you’d say it’s a pretty good business. In fiscal 2016, our global e-commerce sales increased about 12%, to $13.7 billion. But when you look
at what the leader is doing, we’re far short of where
we should be. And that’s just in e-commerce; there’s
a lot of other digital conversion that needs to happen.
We’re thinking in the right way, and we’re moving but
not fast enough. I’m frustrated by that.
What’s the ultimate value of the Jet.com purchase?
Why did you pay $3 billion for Jet instead of
building that kind of platform internally?
We were making progress with Walmart.com without
Jet, but it just wasn’t enough. The transparent customer
experience that [CEO] Marc Lore and the rest of Jet had
built was attractive. Jet’s “smart basket” experience lets
customers be actively involved in what price they pay,
depending on how they buy things—with a debit card
instead of a credit card, giving up return privileges, and
so on. When we saw Jet, we saw a strong tech platform
and a team that was culturally aligned with how we
think about the world.
Is the goal to merge the platforms and brands?
We’ll share a lot of back-end stuff and eventually have
a common tech platform and fulfillment business.
THE HBR INTERVIEW “WE NEED PEOPLE TO LEAN INTO THE FUTURE”