What’s in a name? For Wal-Mart Stores, it’s what’s not in the name that counts.
The world’s biggest retailer announced plans to change its legal name to Walmart Inc. on 1 February, the start of its next fiscal year. The tweak reflects how customers commonly refer to the company, and supports its aim to serve customers both in physical stores and online.
“Why the change? Because of our growing presence as a retailer who serves customers no matter how they choose to shop,” Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said in a blog post on the company’s website. “Most of us, and I’d guess all our customers, refer to our company as Walmart.”
McMillon has sought to position the company as an e-commerce powerhouse - and a rival to Amazon - by acquiring web retailers like Jet.com and Bonobos, offering two-day free delivery, and hiring Ivy Leaguers to help run its internet operations. It’s also teaming up with Google on voice-activated shopping.
The push has led to online sales growth of at least 50% in the US over the past three quarters, more than triple the pace of the broader e-commerce sector.
“This action is simply harmonising the corporate name with the customer-facing name on the stores, both physical and digital,” said David Schick, an analyst at Consumer Edge Research. “This shift has been underway for some time.”
The company was known as Wal-Mart Inc. when it incorporated in 1969. It was changed to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. the following year, when it went public. But that name “isn’t as relevant as it was in the past,” according to Edwards Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough.
McMillon said the change will not affect the cheer that employees commonly do during some meetings, where they spell out the name “Wal-Mart” and shimmy their hips when reaching the hyphen, known as the “squiggly.”
“It’s important to have some fun at work, so for our associates in countries where your cheer calls for the squiggly, keep doing it!” the CEO said.