Bill Simon plans to reshape Wal-Mart with his own hands, directly overseeing merchandising.
Simon, who in June succeeded Eduardo Castro-Wright as president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s namesake division, has opted not to hire a replacement for chief merchant John Fleming, who resigned in July following Simon’s promotion.
Instead, the retailer will group its goods into four merchandising categories overseen by executive vice presidents. “For now, they will report to me, allowing me to stay close as they thoughtfully look at our merchandising opportunities,” Simon said in a Sept. 3 memo.
Lisa Rhodes, senior vice president of apparel, along with Karen Stuckey, senior vice president of home goods, will report to Andy Barron, who was promoted to executive vice president. He had been senior vice president of store merchandising execution, an area he continues to oversee. Barron joined Wal-Mart in 1993 and handled merchandising in a number of areas, including men’s wear and intimate apparel. Barron had reported to both Simon and Fleming in his previous post as senior vice president of store merchandising execution.
Duncan MacNaughton, who was chief merchant at the firm’s Canadian business, will serve as executive vice president of consumables, health and wellness and walmart.com.
Although there is no head merchant, besides perhaps Simon himself, the ceo said, “We are all merchants whether we work in a store, distribution center, dot-com or home office. Together, we are shaping the future of merchandising. This structure aligns similar categories and allows us to be even more competitive in each customer channel, improving how we target and localize merchandise.”
Charles Grom, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, was skeptical of the move. “Wal-Mart is simply taking the necessary steps to adjust its merchandising strategy following five consecutive quarters of negative [comparable-store sales],” said Grom. “That said, we note that a decentralized merchandise team will further stretch Mr. Simon, who also did not choose to replace his seat [as chief operating officer]. We would have preferred to see an outsider with a fresh perspective take over the helm of [chief merchant].”