Fayetteville, Ark.—Walmart's annual shareholders meeting is always an extravaganza with top-tier talent and fired up employees – and this year is no exception. Still the party atmosphere is tempered somewhat by growing investor concern and lagging sales and profits.
Pharrell Williams woke everyone up at 7 a.m. with "Happy." It's a fitting tune for a sports arena filled with cheering associates, board members, suppliers, media and analysts. Robin Thicke joined him a short while later for a rendition of "Blurred Lines," a fitting description for a retailer with $279 billion in annual U.S. sales and a workforce now the poster child for the nationwide push for a higher minimum wage.
There were also calls for accountability in the wake of the Mexico bribery scandal and a more independent board of directors, as the star-studded event is interspersed with shareholder proposals and updates on individual businesses.
Update: Walmart's Doug McMillon hosts his first shareholder meeting as CEO and outlines three core principals, saying that Walmart will be a customer driven company, it will invest in its people and will lead in order to get ahead of change.
"We need to get better at what we're already doing right now," McMillon told attendees. "We need to bring together the world of e-commerce with the physical world of our stores."
McMillon is referring to Walmart's global e-commerce group. GEC posted sales of roughly $10 billion last year and is forecast to reach $13 billion in the fiscal year 2014.
Update: It was a somewhat humbled Walmart today that celebrated its people, but admitted to needing to do more. Not just for associates, although McMillon said that was a priority without giving any details, but in business as the retailer faces new challenges meeting shoppers digital.
McMillon and the other top executives thanked past leaders and acknowledged their efforts and accomplishments. It's clear the company is looking forward to new technology, platforms, formats and integrated programs.
In closing, and in typical Walmart fashion, McMillon referenced Sam Walton saying that Walton made it his personal mission to make constant a vital part of Walmart's mission. To make sure the company could "turn on a dime."
"What would Sam say," asked McMillon. "I think he would say, 'go.' He might even say, 'hurry up.'"