Tuesday morning, August 2nd, the Lumberton Wal-Mart celebrated its Academy opening with a ribbon cutting and graduation ceremony. Music pumped from the large speakers while employees danced and joyfully chatted with co-workers. A massive white tent provided shade and seating during the ceremony. When the ceremony concluded and the chairs were removed, some employees continued the celebration dancing and visiting under the tent.
In addition to the festivities, Wal-Mart also gave back to the community. The Wal-Mart foundation donated $1,000 each to the Chamber of Commerce, Kountze ISD, Lumberton ISD, Lumberton Fire Department, and the Lumberton Police Department. The American Cancer Society received a $7,000 donation.
City Manager, Steve Clark said “I can’t say enough good about Wal-Mart and the relationship we’ve developed. Their commitment to our city has been a big economic boost to our city. I encourage people to shop local. The money you spend comes right back to the city in sales tax. The Academy is a great thing. We’re one of six academies and we feel honored that they would choose our city. It’s a win-win all around.”
The Lumberton location was chosen for geographical reasons. “They needed to cover about 30 stores and have good permitting options.” said Kristen Wilkinson, a Senior Director of Wal-Mart. This Academy is the only one within 18 Wal-Mart stores. The retail giant plans to have 200 of these academies.
The academies serve the purpose of sharing knowledge amongst Wal-Mart employees and training them to provide the best customer service experience. Wilkinson said employees participating in the training are from all over the market. Some already live in the area while others will travel in and stay for the duration of the training. So far, the Academy has been training for about four weeks and each training session is two weeks long. They have already produced two graduating classes of Wal-Mart associates.
The Academy building contains several classrooms that allow them to provide multiple training classes at one time. In addition to the training inside this building; employees will receive training on the sales floor inside the store. They will be equipped with iPads loaded with an application giving them access to reports and training information. Graduates of the training program are able to take the application back to their store in order to maintain what they have learned while at the Academy.
At this location, there are four Academy Department Managers including Mariah, who said they are “trying to get back to the role of keeping the customer first; fast and friendly.” She said that they are excited to share their knowledge and help get the academy started. Mariah added that it is an honor to have the Academy here in Lumberton.
Sandra Womack, Executive Director of the Lumberton Chamber of Commerce said “I’m very pleased that they are here. It’s not only a great asset for Wal-Mart but also a great asset to the community; with the associates coming from ten different counties spending money in our town, eating in our restaurants, and staying in hotels that provides the hotel occupancy tax. I love to see a company giving back and training the employees.”
*Pictures by COC