Invasion From The Wal-Martians

Thousands flock to NWA this week for the annual Wal-Mart shareholders meeting

By Maylon T. Rice


Jose and Diana Cisneros exit the Wal-Mart Supercenter Store No. 1 in Rogers


They come every spring about this time. Thousands of Wal-Mart shareholders — the stockholders, select Wal-Mart store workers (aka associates) and vendors and celebrities who want a piece of the Wal-Mart pie. 

Vendors begin arriving in Northwest Arkansas weeks in advance to prepare for the week’s activities that culminate early Friday morning at the annual shareholders meeting at Bud Walton Arena on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville. 

Vendor shows, concerts and Wal-Mart cheerleading happen throughout the week. The Wal-Mart associates are housed in UA dorms and find their way to Dickson Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for local food. Hundreds of busses carry the associates from tours of Wal-Mart properties in Bentonville back to the activities in Fayetteville. Martin Luther King Boulevard is often bumper-to-bumper with buses.  

So what will this year’s message be at the annual meeting? No doubt, this year, more than ever before, Wal-Mart shareholders will hear about how the company, its associates and the nation should be committed to becoming green.

The “green-er” principal for Wal-Mart is not just lip service. Wal-Mart is making a major commitment to wind power. Wal-Mart says its philosophy to be both a profitable and efficient business goes hand-in-hand with being a good steward of the environment. 

According to the Wal-Mart Web site: “In an effort to reach Wal-Mart’s long-term goal of being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, we are committed to finding more ways to implement and utilize renewable energy sources in our stores, Sam’s Club locations and distribution centers.”

To do this, Wal-Mart says it will turn to wind energy.

In April, Wal-Mart began receiving clean electricity generated by wind power as part of a four-year power purchase agreement with Duke Energy, a wind farm in Notress, Tex. The electricity purchase will supply up to 15 percent of the retailer’s total energy load in approximately 360 Texas stores and other facilities. 

The purchase represents one of the largest purchases of green power by retailers and could rank Wal-Mart third among retailers and 15th among national companies that are using green power, according to the EPA’s Green Power Partnership rankings.

Wal-Mart says that by purchasing clean, renewable energy, it will avoid producing more than 139,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, the equivalent of taking approximately 25,000 cars off the road or eliminating as much CO2 that’s produced by 18,000 homes annually.





Michael Duke

A new Wal-Mart sheriff (aka CEO) is in the house 

Expect a more relaxed Wal-Mart host at this year’s shareholders meeting. No one, of course, could out do the late ball cap wearing Sam Moore Walton, but Wal-Mart’s new president and CEO Michael Duke will sure try. This will be Duke’s first shareholders meeting as the man at the top. 

Despite his humble Kansas upbringing, the former Wal-Mart “high sheriff” H. Lee Scott, who proceeded Duke, could not pull off the down-home image as Wal-Mart head cheerleader. Insiders say that Duke can pull it off. 

No doubt, Duke will share the stage with the Walton boys, Sam’s sons, S. Robson Walton and the shyer Arvest banking mogul, Jim Walton, as well as their sister Alice Walton, who is sometimes mistakenly identified as “The First Lady of Wal-Mart,” an informal title that was affectionately given to her mother, the gracious and humble Helen Robson Walton.

Duke is not a stranger to shareholder fun. He served as vice chairman of the company, leading Wal-Mart International from 2005 to February 2009. 

Wal-Mart credits Duke for overseeing Wal-Mart’s international growth, which sits at more than 3,500 stores in 15 markets outside the continental United States. 

Duke joined Wal-Mart in 1995, coming from the Federated Department Store group and May Department Stores. He is a graduate of Georgia Tech, with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.

Since joining Wal-Mart, he has been in charge of logistics, distribution and administration divisions as well as U.S. Operations. As vice chairman, Duke was actively involved in developing and executing corporate strategy. 

The company’s Web site states that Duke focused on setting higher standards of excellence for the company’s resources and people, from the redesign of the logistics and merchandise distribution systems to the recruitment of talent and the development of strong teams.

Duke serves on the University of Arkansas Board of Advisers, not to be confused with the University of Arkansas Board of Trustee. The Board of Advisers is for the Sam M. Walton College of Business.


ffw-0604-wal-mart-2By the numbers 

Wal-Mart is big, getting bigger


The numbers, even in a down economy, don’t lie and the numbers reveal that Wal-Mart is big and getting bigger.

Check out these numbers:

w More than 2 million associates (the Wal-Mart word for employees) worldwide, including more than 1.4 million in the United States. 

w Wal-Mart is not only one of the largest private employers in the U.S. but the largest in Mexico and one of the largest in Canada.

w The average, full-time hourly wage is $10.83, slightly higher in urban areas topping out at around $12.57 in Boston.

w More than 75 percent of Wal-Mart’s store management team began their career at Wal-Mart as hourly associates.

In Arkansas there are more than 48,000 associates, 67 Super Centers, 16 Discount Stores, seven Neighborhood Markets, seven Sam’s Clubs and 20 distribution centers.

w Wal-Mart says it supports 62,995 supplier jobs in Arkansas.

w Wal-Mart reports it collected $393.7 million in sales taxes for Arkansas last year and paid more than $161.4 million in state and local taxes.


Sugarland, Performed Tuesday at a concert open to the Public

It’s Showtimeffw-0604-band

In the past, most shareholder events were strictly for Wal-Mart shareholders and many of them still are. However, in the last couple of years, Wal-Mart has opened some of their concerts to the public. 

Last year, those who stood in line and didn’t mind sitting in the nosebleed section of Reynolds Stadium or Barnhill Arena on the UA campus, got to attend free concerts with Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and others. The public can gain entry to the concerts on a first-in-line basis, once the shareholders are seated. 

So who will be performing this year and will any of the concerts be open to the public? At press time, the FFW could not confirm any of this information, but the rumor mill is buzzing and we’re also doing some speculation. Here goes.

Will the newest American Idol, Kris Allen, our boy from Arkansas, be at the Wal-Mart Shareholders meeting?

While Wal-Mart executives are mum about the celebrity guest list, long time observers of all things Wal-Mart, say that even a walk across the stage, much less a song or two from the latest American Idol would send the Wal-Mart associates and all of Northwest Arkansas into the stratosphere. 

Many of the celebrities who come to town appear at the “shareholders only” meeting on Friday and don’t perform at the concerts.

Hot stars and cool acts. It’s just the punch Wal-Mart needs in this lackluster economy. The celebrity factor is something that veteran shareholder attendees have come to expect. Local airports are filled with slick little (and big) jets that bring the celebs to town.

So who else might be coming to Fayetteville this year for the big Wal-Mart shindig?

Well let’s see.

Who is the hottest female Country Music singer? Taylor Swift, winner of the CMA’s Top Vocalist award. She was here last year and we haven’t heard any buzz about her coming back.

What we have heard from more than one source are: Former American Idol contestant and Grammy nominee Chris Daughtery, country singer Brad Paisley, retro rock band Foreigner and country duo Sugarland.

Will Kathy Lee Gifford make an appearance? She has in the past.

And what about Tyra Banks? She’s been here, too.

The Energizer Bunny? You can mostly likely count on that and the Weiner Mobile and the Spam mobile and maybe the Red Bull girls. These are the kind of “celebrities” that you have a pretty good chance of running into at the area Walmart stores this week. Sometimes some of the vendors set up in Walmart parking lots and give away a little swag. 

What about politicians? Often the chief executives are too busy, but once Barbara Bush came. Remember?

The buzz is that Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is on the guest list, along with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

With no new book to sell, one doubts that former Gov. Mike Huckabee will be in attendance. But he does like the shareholders meetings.

Who knows, maybe his radio show could originate from Bud Walton Arena? Stranger things have happened.

The rumor mill has it that Stephanie Meyer of the “Twilight” book fame may be a guest. What if the film’s actors came, too? Can you imagine the applause and screaming fans? 

The guest list is top secret, but we’ll keep you posted as the information is confirmed on the Free Weekly Web site:





Categories: Features