Wal-Mart To Press For More Diversity In Workforce

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores's Vice Chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright promised shareholders at its annual meeting Friday that it will press for more diversity in its workforce and create more career opportunities for advancement.

"In the year ahead, we will take bold steps. We will not confuse efforts with results," Castro-Wright told cheering shareholders packed into a University of Arkansas arena for the company's annual meeting in Fayetteville, about 30 miles from its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. Without offering specifics, Castro-Wright said that the company will do more to help associates, including hourly associates, advance in the workforce and get competitive pay.

Wal-Mart has been one of the few bright spots in retailing as it steals market share and customers away from rivals. But as the nation's biggest private employer, it is under pressure by labor-backed critics to keep improving its labor practice, though criticism has diminished recently.

Castro-Wright says that 40 percent of regional general managers are "of color." Twenty percent of that group are women.

Still, this year's annual meeting was even more of a celebration than an opportunity to respond to attacks as the company has benefited as shoppers have switched to cheaper options in a recession.

The company has pulled shoppers away from rivals because its re-emphasis on low prices along with the right mix of merchandise and marketing have come together just as the economy went sour.

Even Ben Stiller, the host of the meeting, which will be peppered with performances by such celebrities as American Idol winner Kris Allen, made a jab at Target.

"You guys get up early," said Stiller, referring to the 7 a.m start of the meeting. "I hear they are still sleeping over at Target."

Wal-Mart's earnings and sales performance continues to be a standout compared with the retail industry. Including Wal-Mart, the same-store sales index from the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs has averaged a 0.5 percent decline from February through April compared with last. Without Wal-Mart, the industry index would have fallen 4 percent. Sales at stores open at least a year are considered a key indicator of a retailer's health. Starting with May results, Wal-Mart is no longer reporting monthly sales results.

Similarly, first-quarter profits fell 12 percent this year compared with last year industrywide. Excluding Wal-Mart's positive results, industry profits would have dropped 17 percent, though the gap between Wal-Mart and the rest of the industry has narrowed as merchants increase cost-cutting, Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics, said.

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  • by Ank Location: Greenville on Jun 6, 2009 at 03:38 AM
    Whites are not the minority in this country. Not by a long shot
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Jun 5, 2009 at 12:55 PM
    So isn't this racial profiling? By using race as a gage you are showing you are racist. I can remember when people got jobs because they qualified for it or earned it. Since I am a Polish American where are my rights? By population, I am a minority and want that greeter job, where are my rights?
  • by steve on Jun 5, 2009 at 10:21 AM
    OK hire more whites, asians and indians. Fine with me as long as they can speak the Kings English. I hate going there cant understand a word when asking help to fine something.
  • by CCC Location: Greenville on Jun 5, 2009 at 08:20 AM
    The time to take up arms is approaching people.
  • by Sam Location: Williamston on Jun 5, 2009 at 08:12 AM
    I guess that means you may see not only more whites but a bunch of asians and indians as well working there. Maybe Wal-Mart will hire some illegal immigrants from Mexico now as well. What is the United States getting into now?
  • by Ben Location: NC on Jun 5, 2009 at 07:57 AM
    Well hellllooooooo of course they need to hire whites...WHITES ARE THE MINORITY!
  • by Ordnanceman Location: Greenville on Jun 5, 2009 at 07:37 AM
    It is getting to the point that if you are a White Male, you are out of luck when it comes to a good paying job.
  • by Cindi Location: Simpson on Jun 5, 2009 at 07:21 AM
    Diversity??? So you mean Walmarty will try to hire more WHITE'S? Isn't Walmart hiring minorities instead of being "diverse".
  • by Ted Location: Greenville on Jun 5, 2009 at 07:10 AM
    Does this mean they are going to hire more white folks at the Greenville Walmart?

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