Charlie Rose Talks to Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug McMillon

Wal-Mart’s CEO discusses worker pay, the impact of digital shopping, and his respect for Jeff Bezos
Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

What did we learn this Black Friday about the way retail and e-commerce are changing?
Our stores were really cranking during Thursday and Friday. On the Thursday we had over 22 million visitors. Over the weekend, people downloaded our Black Friday ad 25 million times. We’re seeing the customer engage with us in stores and online and increasingly on their mobile devices in new ways. Mobile surprised even me. Over the Black Friday weekend, 70 percent of the orders we received digitally came through a mobile device.

You’ve mentioned people ordering online and picking up at the store. Explain the psychology at work there.
People are moving around, and they don’t want to sit at home and wait. In the U.K., our team’s been adding a pickup capability in the parking lot, drive-throughs, and sometimes even taking a truck and parking it at a tube station so they can meet people on their way home from work. We opened a store in northwest Arkansas a few months ago that you can’t go into and shop. It’s just a pickup point. So you order on your mobile device or our website, and you schedule a time slot. Guess who loves it: Mom loves it.

Talk to me about pay at Wal-Mart and the public’s perception of it.
Around the world, we’ve got 2.2 million associates. In the U.S., 1.3 million. Today we have less than 6,000 that make [only] the federal minimum wage. We’re going to make some changes in a few months that will create a situation where no Wal-Mart associate in the U.S. makes federal minimum wage. We couldn’t run a good business if we didn’t take care of people. Sometimes people want to talk about the bad news and not the good news.

China had been a growth powerhouse, but many now say momentum has shifted to the U.S. How do you see it?
Isn’t it funny how things change so quickly? Post-crisis everyone was talking about how fast China and Brazil and the rest of the BRICs were going to grow. To a large extent, because the economies are so connected, we’re all in a narrower band of growth. And the U.S. has emerged as the premier place to invest—the first place people are talking about.

Dec. 11: On “Charlie Rose,” a conversation with Doug McMillon, CEO of Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer and private employer. At 48, he is the youngest CEO since Sam Walton founded the company in 1962.

But you’re looking hard at China, India, the rest of Asia, and you’re invested there?
Wal-Mart has really grown over the years. We’re now in 27 countries. We believe there’s a great opportunity for us in China. We’re also in Japan and have a small business in India. We’re focused on growing different types of stores and an e-commerce business. If you take China, for example, today we’ve got 400 stores. We’ve also got an e-commerce business based in Shanghai.

Everybody’s speculating about Wal-Mart vs. Amazon. It’s said you’ve given every one of your executives a book about Jeff Bezos and his company.
We believe in learning from other people. What Amazon’s doing, and what Jeff’s doing, is showing us and showing the world what’s possible. And I admire that.

Bezos studies Sam Walton, and now you’re studying him.
We’re trying to learn from Sam Walton, learn from the competition, and on a global basis be the very best. I’m confident that the things we’ve done that built this business still largely apply in the future.

How has Wal-Mart’s push to go green worked out?
About 80 percent of the waste that was generated by our stores is being recaptured. We’re the largest on-site solar power producer in the country because of the way we use the rooftops of our stores. We’re in the neighborhood of 25 percent renewable energy already.