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Walmart managers' app to deliver alerts

Walmart Inc.'s voice assistant app for store managers now has an emergency alert feature.

"Ask Sam," developed by Sam's Club and introduced to Walmart stores late last year, responds to spoken or typed questions on topics such as price queries, product location and store sales information. Its machine-learning capabilities allow it to become more accurate over time, a Walmart news release said.

Meng Chee, Walmart's chief product officer, said in the release that though all employees go through emergency training, "we wanted to provide managers with an additional way to quickly and effectively alert associates to emergency situations."

The emergency alert button sends "clear and instructive" alerts to all workers on or off the clock through multiple apps for employees, Chee said. Alerts include "stay inside the facility," "exit facility" and "all clear."

A Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, was the scene of a mass shooting on Aug. 3 in which 23 people died and another 23 were injured. More recently, customers angered at being asked to wear masks in stores have threatened employees and shoppers.

-- Serenah McKay

Dunkin' will close 350 more locations

CANTON, Mass. -- Dunkin' Brands Inc. expects to close up to 800 underperforming U.S. stores this year.

The company had previously announced the closure of 450 stores within Speedway gas stations. But the company said Thursday that it's targeting an additional 350 stores, most of which are unprofitable. Closing the restaurants would allow their franchisees to reinvest in newer stores in higher-traffic areas, Katherine Jaspon, the chief financial officer, said during a conference call with investors.

Jaspon said the 800 stores represent 8% of Dunkin's U.S. footprint but just 2% of its sales.

International franchisees are also assessing their stores and could close 350 low-volume stores abroad by the end of this year, Jaspon added.

Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin' said Thursday that its sales dropped 20% in the second quarter to $287 million. Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year dropped 19% from the April-June period a year ago.

-- The Associated Press

State index closes down 3.35 points

The Arkansas Index, a price-weighted index that tracks the largest public companies based in the state, closed Thursday at 415.95, down 3.35.

"Equities traded near their lows early in the session following a sharply negative GDP report for the second quarter and rising weekly jobless claims, but stocks improved through the day to recoup some of their losses," said Leon Lants, managing director at Stephens Inc.

The index was developed by Bloomberg News and the Democrat-Gazette with a base value of 100 as of Dec. 30, 1997

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