“It’s hard to predict the future. With the last four or five years that we’ve had in the world, predicting the future is difficult. But I see a strong growth. We’re in growth mode in Canada,” he told Retail Insider in an exclusive interview while in Calgary recently to officially open the company’s latest state-of-the-art fulfillment centre.
“But we like to say that we’re in omni growth mode. If you ask me if there is room for more stores, I think there are. There is room for more stores in Canada, no question about it. Our value proposition resonates very well across all of the country.
“But also there’s a lot of opportunity to continue to grow our omni capabilities and continue to serve customers in the many different ways they are choosing to shop.”
Gebara said a facility like the new one in the Calgary area in the Balzac part of Rocky View County is a clear demonstration of the company’s approach to the market. The $100-million investment in the 430,000-square-foot facility is its first highf-tech fulfillment centre in Western Canada.
“It’s the latest and greatest version of fulfillment capabilities that we have. State of the art,” he said.
Walmart Canada, with more than 100,000 associates, operates a chain of more than 400 stores nationwide serving 1.5 million customers each day. Walmart Canada’s flagship online store, Walmart.ca, is visited by more than 1.5 million customers daily.
Gebara joined Walmart in 2000. During his career, he has held roles across Finance, Strategy, eCommerce, Marketing and Operations, in positions of increasing responsibility. Additionally, he has worked with teams across multiple markets, including the United States, Argentina and Chile, driving critical business outcomes.
In his most recent position as CEO for Walmart Chile, he played an integral role in accelerating the company’s transformation, making life easier for customers and giving them access to buy what they need, where, when and how they want to shop.
Gebara said during his experience with the company, Walmart Canada has always been a really interesting, innovative part of the Walmart ecosystem.
“When I got here of course I knew enough about the business but a couple of things just caught my attention,” he said. “The first one would be the talent that we have in the business. We have very talented people, very knowledgeable both in our stores and in our home office. We’re putting all that collective intelligence to continue to bring our purpose to life across all of Canada.
“The other thing I was quite impressed is how sophisticated it really is. Of course we’re at the cutting edge of retail with lots of players, lots of options for consumers. The technology supporting customers so they can shop the way they want and where they want. It’s a pretty intense retail environment.
“I’m quite impressed by how much our value proposition resonates across the whole customer base of bringing value, everyday low price, and bringing access through our stores and our omni capabilities.”
Gebara said the company describes itself as a people-led, tech-enabled, omni-channel retailer.
“Our people are the most important thing that we have in Walmart and we continue to invest and to develop all of us. But technology is a very, very strong enabler so that we can continue to serve customers, serve communities and develop our associates across the whole network,” he said.
“We will continue to invest in technology. This is obvious. We will continue to leverage the great innovations that we see coming from our U.S. business. Some of them we can implement faster than others because of nuances of each of the different markets and the shape of our businesses. We are in good shape to continue to develop technology and invest in technology.”
Gebara described the retail landscape in Canada as “ever-evolving.”
“The pandemic had a big impact in so many ways in our industry and coming out of the pandemic and kind of this post-pandemic era, there are a few things that went back to the way they were before, others haven’t,” he said. “I think we’re still in flux to see what the next normal will look like.
“So in the meantime, the way we’re thinking about the business is we need to be agile enough to be able to adapt and continue to learn about customers’ preferences and customer behaviour so we are prepared to react fast to the nuances of our customers’ preferences.
“We are continuing to evolve our network so that we are agile and we can react fast to the customers’ preferences.”