Did you ever go through the drive-through and get the greeting, “Welcome back to McDonald’s, can I take your order?”

Yes, I have been to McDonald’s before — yesterday in fact — but that doesn’t mean I’m cool with you making a big deal about it.

Do you recognize my old Civic, or perhaps peep into my window and see the random fry on the floorboard?

Living in America, we have relationships with certain businesses that transcend time. I went to the Golden Arches as a kid, as a dad in the minivan with the kids and no doubt I will meet with fellow old guys for coffee at McDonald’s in 15 years. Welcome back to McDonald’s indeed. Just don’t take me for granted, right?

 Well, Wal-Mart is another one of those businesses that will most likely be in our universe of experience for many years to come, as long as people buy Tide and milk. I’ve haven’t heard “Welcome back to Wal-Mart” from one of their greeters, but they probably figure, “Why state the obvious?”

These places become a part of our life, and we pay attention to the ups and downs of McDonald’s and Wal-Mart just as we pay attention to the narrative of an uncle or aunt. Arlene went to Branson - good for her! And how is that gimpy knee of Uncle LeRoy doing?

 Here is a link to the Seeking Alpha transcript of the management’s discussion of the third quarter earnings at Wal-Mart, speaking to produce issues mostly.

Excerpts from Doug McMillon President and Chief Executive Officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Last week, I dropped into some stores in Chicago including a new Neighborhood Market in an urban area. A customer stopped me to thank us for the value we’ve brought to his community and it was interesting for me to see some of the similarities and differences of our fresh food offer compared to what I’d seen in Japan. We are learning across markets and can do even more of that to improve our fresh offering in all of our markets. It’s a key point in our enterprise strategy going forward. In that same store, another customer strongly encouraged us to add more organic produce. She was right; we needed more. We’re seeing opportunities large and small to get better. 

Within store formats, we are pleased by the Neighborhood Market performance particularly in our traditional format, which reported approximately a 5.5% positive comp for the quarter. Pharmacy and consumables continued to produce strong growth, as we focused on in-stock and optimizing the store with relevant offerings for the customer.

 Now, let me discuss our real estate actions this quarter. We opened 49 supercenters, including 33 new and 16 conversions, as well as 28 traditional-format Neighborhood Markets in Q3. In Q4, we will shift to a heavier mix of small formats, opening over 100 traditional Neighborhood Markets and 70 smaller ones. Given the significant number of Q4 openings, we expect headwinds related to pre-opening expenses, as well as higher inventory balances from these openings.

 

 Greg Foran – President and Chief Executive Officer, Walmart U.S.

Shifting gears now, I would like to talk a little about Q4. I’m encouraged by our momentum on the urgent agenda items. We’re already seeing improvements in how we execute markdowns related to damaged merchandise, particularly in produce, as we focus on improving freshness for our customers. Plans are emerging to deliver a strong in-stock position, while simultaneously managing inventory levels appropriately. Though profit will remain challenged, we are working to partially offset some of the expressed headwinds.

 

 David Cheesewright – President and CEO, Walmart International

 The team is aligned on key strategies that we discussed in the October Investor Meeting. We’re making significant progress on driving price leadership and widening or maintaining our price gap across key markets. We’re excited about steps we’ve taken this quarter to accelerate growth in e-commerce, including the launch of additional online offerings in Mexico and China and collection points for online customers in the U.K. and China. We also remain focused on being the most trusted retailer wherever we operate. For example, Walmart China recently launched a Worry Free Fresh program starting with 49 stores providing our customers with a money-back satisfaction guarantee when buying fresh produce and meats.

 

 

TK: Wal-Mart execs have some corporate happy talk about “fresh offerings,” “aligned on key strategies,” “price leadership,” “most trusted retailer” sprinkled with an ominous mention of “SNAP-related headwinds.” Just keep me happy, folks, so I will come back next time. As if I won’t anyway.