Walgreens sees more staffing changes with departure of three purchasing VPs

5/7/2009

DEERFIELD, Ill.

Extending a shakeup in senior and mid-level management as it continues a massive realignment and revitalization program, Walgreens revealed late Wednesday that three veterans of its purchasing department are leaving the company.

Those departing Walgreens are Bill Hubbs, divisional VP and general merchandise manager for seasonal and sundry; Arnie Silver, divisional VP and GMM consumables; and Kathy Steirly, divisional VP and GMM beauty. Their exit is not part of cost-cutting efforts underway at Walgreens, company spokeswoman Tiffani Washington told Drug Store News.

Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson praised the three merchants in an internal memo to managers announcing the changes.

“These three have all worked very hard to make Walgreens successful, and we appreciate their years of service,” Wasson noted. “I respect each one of them and wish them the best in their future endeavors.”

Over the next few days, he added, the departments formerly run by Hubbs, Silver and Steirly “will transition their work to Dave Van Howe and Robert Tompkins, who will help oversee the Purchasing divisions until replacements are named.” 

In a note explaining the moves, Washington added, “Effective immediately, Dave Van Howe will continue in his current role as VP of purchasing and temporarily oversee these divisions.”

That marks at least a temporary consolidation of key purchasing activities under the 50-year-old, nine-year Walgreens veteran, who was promoted to head of purchasing in April 2007. However, said Washington, all three positions will likely be filled with new managers for those categories in the near future, she told Drug Store News.

“We’re looking both internally and externally to fill them,” at the divisional VP/GMM level, Washington added.

In line with the changes, Walgreens has also promoted Tompkins to divisional VP and GMM. The veteran buyer, who last October was promoted from divisional merchandise manager for OTC drugs to GMM of the health and wellness purchasing group, will temporarily oversee both health and wellness and OTC, the company revealed.

Walgreens also said Wednesday it has hired Rachel Bishop as division VP and GMM of strategic planning and analysis. Bishop last served as an associate principal at McKinsey & Co. in Chicago, and “has already started working closely with Chong Bang on the Customer Centric Retailing initiative,” the company announced. Bang, a divisional VP, was tapped to head that initiative as part of Walgreens’ effort to spark its front-end merchandising activities, overhaul its product presentation and build additional customer demand.

The shifts underway in Walgreens’ sprawling buying group may not be completed.

“We will be looking internally and externally for additional purchasing leadership,” said one source at Walgreens. As for the way purchasing activities are currently organized at the chain, she added, “it certainly could be some other structure.”

Said Washington, “At this point, all I can say is that we are obviously in a period where we’re transforming and taking on initiatives in a different way than we ever have in the company’s history.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding any such major corporate streamlining, Walgreens’ spokesperson characterized the ongoing transformation as a positive.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” she told Drug Store News Thursday. “And with that comes looking at whether or not we’re doing everything we can to make sure we roll out all those new efforts in the best way possible.”

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