Orlando

Wal-Mart has high hopes for the holidays, in part because lower gas prices and unemployment rates are putting more money in the hands of its shoppers this year, said U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Quinn in an interview after his appearance at the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando last week. To keep up with the demand for thousands of pieces of content, largely video, the retailer has established a single "holiday hub" for producing all of its holiday work, led by Senior Vice President, Creative, Andy Murray, Quinn said.

We were privileged to hear from two outstanding keynote speakers at Direct Tech's annual user conference last week in sunny, warm Orlando. (Please forgive my sigh; I'm back home in Wisconsin, where the current temperature is -10°.) One of them, Elaine Beaubien, an award-winning educator, entrepreneur, and business management and training coach, shared her observations on "innovating to survive" in a rapidly changing environment.

In front of 6,000 Wal-Mart associates at the company's annual holiday meeting Wednesday, Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer Duncan Mac Naughton introduced free layaway with no opening fee. Beginning Sept. 13 through Dec. 13, layaway will kick off the retailer's official start to the holiday season. "Times are tough and it's not easy for many Americans — they're watching every penny," said Mac Naughton. "All year long, but especially during the holidays, our customers need a low price leader. This year, we're committed to doing everything we did last year to help Americans save money — plus more." 

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