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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — As Walmart’s U.S. stores division looks to execute a broad slate of initiatives in the coming year to recharge domestic growth, it does so under the leadership of a new chief executive and a restructured merchandising organization.
If those words sound familiar it’s because the names, strategies and structure at Walmart tend to change fairly often. So much so that adjusting to shifting personnel and priorities at Walmart was ranked second only to growing sales in a Walmart supplier survey conducted by Connecting Northwest Arkansas, a sister publication of Drug Store News. A total of 139 suppliers, based primarily in Northwest Arkansas, that are responsible for their companies’ business with Walmart participated in the survey. Roughly half said they had worked with Walmart for 12 years or more, providing a sound historical footing for their perspective of change.
The change they have seen lately is somewhat of a novel approach for Walmart, and a function of the retailer’s circumstance and size. The merchandising organization now is directly overseen by Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon, who has four EVPs of merchandising reporting to him. For most of the past 15 years, Walmart functioned with an executive in the role of head merchant or split merchandising responsibilities among two EVPs.
However, the new structure was put in place several months ago following the promotion of former COO Bill Simon to the position of divisional president and CEO, and the subsequent departure of former chief merchandising officer John Fleming. As a result, Walmart now essentially has four head merchants, and the crew is a mix of two veteran Walmart executives and two others who obtained the bulk of their experience elsewhere.
Falling into the latter camp is Duncan MacNaughton, EVP health and wellness and Walmart.com. He joined the company’s Canadian division in 2009 as head merchant before moving to the U.S. division a few months ago to assume his current position. MacNaughton’s name is familiar in the health-and-wellness world due to his lengthy track record with Supervalu, Albertson’s, H-E-B and Kraft Foods.
Reporting to MacNaughton are Scott Huff, SVP consumables; John Agwunobi, president and SVP health and wellness; and Scott McCall, SVP health-and-wellness merchandising. Also reporting to MacNaughton are Steve Nave, SVP Walmart.com, and Phillip Freehling, senior director of planning, pricing and modular development.
Another fairly recent addition to the merchandising group is Jack Sinclair, EVP food, who joined Walmart in early 2008 after spending the bulk of his career in senior positions at such U.K. food retailers as Safeway and Tesco.
The group is rounded out by Walmart veterans Andy Barron and John Westling. Barron serves as EVP softlines and joined Walmart in 1993. He is responsible for the apparel and home areas, and has spent his entire 18-year career in the merchandising area.
The veteran of the group is Westling. He serves as EVP general merchandise and replenishment. He joined Walmart in 1988 as an hourly employee and held a variety of positions before becoming a VP/DMM in 1998. He became SVP/GMM consumables in 2001, EVP merchandising operations in 2007, and assumed his current position this year.