Walmart’s winning ways

2011-02-02 09:36

When Walmart arrived in Mexico in 1991 as a result of a joint venture with Cifra, then Mexico’s largest local retailer, many expressed concern. At the time I was a manager in Cifra’s merchandising department.

What I did not anticipate was the positive transformation that Walmart would bring to the local retail market.

Right from the start, we could see that Walmart embraced our local culture. It became clear to me that Walmart had come to my country not to change us, but to help us grow and become even more successful.

Walmart invested significantly to help us expand, particularly into underserved rural markets.

Just in the last decade, we have added 1?000 new stores – 267 of those last year.

Most of these stores are smaller formats that cater to middle- and low-income families.

Each of these stores offers our customers a broad assortment of high-quality products at consistently low prices.

Walmart pushed us to become even more local by encouraging us to partner with local farmers and suppliers. Today, Walmart de Mexico sources 94% of its products locally, from 17 000 local suppliers.

Many of our local suppliers have become part of Walmart’s global supply chain and have found a significant market for their products all over the world.

Walmart has encouraged us to work productively with our local labour unions. We continue to maintain healthy and positive relationships with our unions, which today represent 18% of our total workforce.

In addition, our employees have benefited greatly from Walmart’s investment in training and development programmes.

In 2010, we invested more than eight million man hours into training.

Rather than importing managers and executives from abroad, Walmart has prioritised local talent and offered education to encourage career development.

My personal career journey is a perfect example of the opportunities Walmart creates.

I started on the shop floor and now serve as CEO of the Latin America region. A large percentage of our executive team, in Mexico and globally, also came from the shop floor.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of our partnership is the good work we’ve done for our people and our country.

In 2003, we formed the Walmart de Mexico Foundation, which has benefited and improved the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Mexican families.

Walmart has also challenged us to set aggressive sustainability goals. We have set an objective of 100% of our units operating with renewable energy by 2025, and we recently established a major wind farm that supplies electricity to 348 of our stores in Mexico and Central America.

About 10 years after Walmart’s initial investment in our company, we decided to change our company’s name from Cifra to Walmart de Mexico.

This was a personal choice for us, and it reflects the positive experience that we have had within the Walmart family.

The relationship my company built with Walmart illustrates the emphasis Walmart places on local culture and the care it takes to serve the local community.

I have every confidence that Walmart will be an ideal partner for Massmart and will continue its tradition of bringing meaningful value to customers, employees and consumers across South Africa.

» Solorzano is the chief executive for Walmart Latin America

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