NEARLY 200 Asda executives and store staff are flying out to parent company Wal-Mart’s home town of Bentonville, Arkansas, this week ahead of the annual ‘Shareholders’ Meeting’ tomorrow, a massive congregation of 14,000 Wal-Mart colleagues and shareholders in a 20,000 capacity basketball arena.
Asda colleagues joined staff from 27 countries from all over the globe to take part in the Wal-Mart international conference on Wednesday ahead of Friday’s main event.
Asda is seen as the crown in Wal-Mart’s international business, which reported mixed results recently.
While other countries have struggled, Kantar data this week showed that Asda is the only one of the big four British supermarkets to gain market share while its rivals lose out to discounters Aldi and Lidl.
The week-long celebrations were kicked off by Asda’s executive team yesterday, who performed a James Bond themed presentation led by Asda CEO Andy Clarke as “Agent 00 Saving”.
Mr Clarke, wearing a £30 George at Asda black tie dinner suit, appeared to parachute on to the stage alongside ‘Queen’Hayley Tatum, Asda’s executive people director, in a scene reminiscent of film director Danny Boyle’s London Olympics opening ceremony.
But the highlight of the week will be the ‘Shareholders’ Meeting’ on Friday and rumours are rife as to which Hollywood stars will be jetting in to present the proceedings.
Previous attendees have included Hollywood movie stars Tom Cruise, Will Smith and Ben Stiller and pop stars Elton John, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys and Taylor Swift.
Global stars are willing to perform without a fee at Wal-Mart’s annual jamboree. Such is the power of Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, that stars will waive their fees in order to curry favour with Wal-Mart’s buying directors.
This year’s stars are tipped to include Happy and Blurred Lines singer Pharrell Williams and I Need a Dollar singer Aloe Blacc.
The Hollywood talent is being kept under wraps until tomorrow.
Daniel Angadi, project manager at Asda’s sourcing arm IPL in Normanton, who flew out earlier this week, said: “This is my first time here and it’s been an amazing week. It’s a really great opportunity to meet fellow Asda colleagues.
“You can’t help but get excited about who is going to be there on Friday.
“We’ve heard it’s Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5 and Pharrell Williams.”
Gary Danvers, general store manager at Glasshoughton, Castleford, who joined Asda from school 25 years ago, said: “I’ve been blown away. I never expected it to be anything like this. You don’t get it until you come out here.”
Susan Chambers, executive vice president of global people at Wal-Mart, said: “This is a special week at Wal-Mart.
“We celebrate and thank our 2.2 million associates from around the globe who are always coming up with new and exciting ways to serve our custom- ers.
“One of the best parts of this week is hearing their ideas and insights on how we can serve our customers even better.”
However, the event won’t be without its controversy.
Wal-Mart is under pressure from US and UK shareholder groups to vote against chairman Rob Walton and several former directors, amid bribery allegations in Mexico.
There are also reports that Wal-Mart store workers are planning strikes in 20 US cities this week in a fight to get higher wages.