The impending departure of Wal-Mart U.S. chief merchant John Fleminggives Wal-Mart Stores Inc. a chance to remake the country’s largestapparel business — and Wall Street hopes the world’s largest retailertakes advantage of it.
Fleming, a former Target Corp. departmentstore executive who has spent the last decade at Wal-Mart, will stepdown as executive vice president and chief merchandising officer of theretail giant’s namesake division on Aug. 1. His resignation is thesecond departure of a top executive at the U.S. stores unit, perhaps anindication top management is becoming impatient with the division’sperformance.
The company said Fleming was leaving to spend moretime with his family, but some Wall Street analysts were skeptical,viewing the departure at least partially due to weakness in thecompany’s sales — domestic same-store sales have been flat for the pastfour quarters — and the ascension of Bill Simon to chief executiveofficer of the U.S. division. Simon took the reins last week fromEduardo Castro-Wright, who remains vice chairman of the company andbecomes president and ceo of global.com and Global Sourcing. Wal-Marthad attributed Castro-Wright’s shift, which entails relocating toCalifornia from Arkansas, to his wife’s recovery from heart surgery.
AWal-Mart spokesman said Fleming was bound by the company’s standardtwo-year noncompete agreement. John Westling, executive vice presidentof planning, pricing and replenishment, will assume Fleming’sresponsibility for apparel until a successor is named. Jack Sinclair,executive vice president and general manager of grocery, will assumetemporary oversight of food and the health and wellness unit.
Wal-Mart’sU.S. sales rose 1.1 percent last year, to $258.2 billion, butsame-store sales retreated 0.7 percent. Grocery’s share of revenues roseto 51 percent, or about $131.7 billion, from 49 percent in 2008, whileapparel’s share fell to 10 percent, or about $25.8 billion, from 11percent.
Whether Fleming jumped or was pushed, analysts wantWal-Mart to take advantage of the opportunity and update the retailer’sapparel offerings, which have been panned as too fashion forward attimes and too basic at others.
“They need to bring ‘wow’ back tothe assortment,” said Brian Sozzi, analyst at Wall Street StrategiesInc., referring to the company’s apparel and food offerings.
“Theyneed to slowly bring in more fashion pieces, test product by market,localize content,” he said. “If Macy’s can do it, certainly Wal-Mart cando it.”
Sozzi said Fleming missed an opportunity about a yearago to introduce some higher-quality goods and go after the rebound indiscretionary spending.
J.P. Morgan analyst Charles Grom saidFleming’s move “is a net positive as we look for Wal-Mart to take afresh look at its current merchandising-marketing strategy, which,frankly, needs a major overhaul in light of declining traffic and salestrends.…Recall that Wal-Mart’s apparel strategy and move to [New YorkCity] have been largely unsuccessful.”
Part of Wal-Mart’sfashion conundrum is that the overall pricing image of the store doesnot lend itself naturally to trendier apparel. “Wal-Mart is strugglingwith apparel, has been struggling, will be struggling with apparelbecause most people regard it as a hard-lines discount store and don’tsee it as a fashion store,” said consultant Walter Loeb.
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)