Wal-Mart Stores Co international employees have been given their marching orders from the company's chief executive: Grow, grow, grow!
The first expectation for Walmart International is really about growth, Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke said on Wednesday at a gathering of about 1,200 Walmart International employees.
Growth outside the United States has been key for the world's largest retailer, as its core U.S. customer has been hit by high unemployment and recently rising gasoline prices.
Walmart's international sales rose about 11 percent last year -- eclipsing $100 billion for the first time. International accounts for about a quarter of the company's overall sales.
As a result, the company has focused much of its expansion internationally. More than 60 percent of its new retail space was added internationally in the first quarter of this year. In the United States, the priority has been to remodel stores rather than build new ones.
My expectation is to add customers, add stores and to grow Walmart International at an even faster pace, Duke said.
The meeting of Walmart International associates was part of the company's annual shareholder meeting week and the agenda seemed to be split among encouraging international growth, better serving customers and bragging about how various countries' teams were going to win the upcoming World Cup of soccer tournament.
Leaders from countries such as Brazil, Argentina and England all rallied their troops by claiming soccer superiority and the meeting -- held at athletic arena at the University of Arkansas -- was full of flag bearing, whistle-tooting, drum-banging associates, cheering for their team and their company.
Associates from Argentina performed a tango, while those from Russia performed a traditional dance, in costume.
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman, editing by Maureen Bavdek)