Wal-Mart says keeping new customers a priority

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s new president and CEO Mike Duke pledged to shareholders Friday that the world’s largest retailer will speed efforts to improve its operations, from offering more compelling merchandise to keeping prices low, as it aims to hold on to customers when the economy improves.

“I believe the economic crisis has brought a fundamental shift in consumer attitudes and behavior,” Duke told cheering shareholders packed into a University of Arkansas arena in Fayetteville.

“There is a ‘new normal’ in which people want to save money and are getting smarter about saving money. … So let me be clear, and people ask me about this all the time: Our customers will stay with us when this economy turns around,” he said.

Wal-Mart has taken customers from competitors and been a bright light in a recession that has made shoppers focus on necessities like groceries and pull back on discretionary items like clothing.

As a testament to recent success, Wal-Mart announced Friday it would launch a new $15 billion share buyback.

The new CEO made clear he planned to accelerate the mission for more corporate responsibility. As part of that effort, Wal-Mart said Friday it has launched a global council comprised of 14 Wal-Mart female executives that’s designed to push for more advancement for women.

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Where does the money go?

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