Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) CEO Doug McMillon touted the company’s investments in people and technology at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting Friday. Wal-Mart workers from around the world packed the arena for the meeting. Blake Shelton served as host for the event and performers included Gwen Stefani and Mary J. Blige.
McMillon talked at length about the company’s efforts to offer more shopping options during the meeting. The company now offers automated pickup stations in some store parking lots, in-store pickup for online orders, and “Jet Fresh” grocery delivery. The company also implemented a program to let online shoppers pick up items at a store for a lower price and revamped its shipping program. On Thursday, Wal-Mart announced a new delivery service that uses its own store employees to deliver packages while driving home from their regular work shifts.
Tinkering with its shipping offers and other services has resulted in an online sales surge for the company. The retailer has also posted sales gains at established stores for the eleventh straight quarter. Wal-Mart also drew more shoppers to its stores in its fiscal first quarter. Customer traffic has risen for the tenth quarter in a row.
The company has also been investing in higher wages and training for its employees. To date, Wal-Mart has invested $2.7 billion in higher wages and training for workers. The company has opened 155 training academies in its Supercenters and nearly 100,000 associates have received the training. Wal-Mart plans to have 200 training academies opened by the end of this year. McMillon said during the meeting, “We will compete with technology, but win with people.”
McMillon doesn’t want employees to be afraid of automation. The company currently has 1.6 million workers and 4,700 stores. According to expert estimates, 6 million to 7.5 million U.S. retail jobs could be wiped out in the coming years due to the use of technology.
McMillon said during his speech, “No doubt our work will be different in the future —robots, drones and algorithms will do some work that we used to have to do. Some people are afraid of what these changes will bring.” He continued, “I don’t think we should be. Instead, I think we should recognize that we’ll be able to learn, grow and change together.”