Inside This Issue - Opinion
Exec shifts strengthen Walmart
February 11th, 2013
by David Pinto
The most recent example of the impact Duncan Mac Naughton, Walmart’s chief merchandising officer, continues to exert on America’s largest retailer came last month with the announcement of several changes within the retailer’s merchandising organization.
In announcing the changes, Mac Naughton noted that "merchandising is at the core of our business, and it’s important for our leaders across the globe to continue to bring exceptional retail knowledge, depth of expertise and breadth across multiple categories."
The shifts affected Walmart’s most experienced and talented merchants, rewarding them for past performance and providing them with expanded opportunities, responsibilities and challenges.
Perhaps the most significant move was the promotion of Carmen Bauza, currently vice president of beauty and personal care at Walmart. Her new role, effective February 1 — as are all the new duties — is senior vice president of O-T-C health and wellness, where she replaces Scott McCall, who formerly held that position. In announcing the promotion, Mac Naughton lauded Bauza for her role in "developing a strong foundation in our beauty business through innovation and supplier partnerships."
Also promoted was John Aden, formerly executive vice president of general merchandise. His new role is executive vice president of merchandise services, where he will be responsible for replenishment, merchandise execution, small formats and supplier diversity.
Replacing Aden as general merchandise vice president is Steve Bratspies, until now senior vice president of dry groceries. Bratspies’ new assignment gives him responsibility for entertainment, toys, seasonal merchandise, sporting goods, automotive products, hardware, paint, stationery, crafts and fabrics.
Scott McCall has been promoted to senior vice president with responsibility for toys, seasonal merchandise and several categories Walmart has grouped under a "celebrations" banner. He replaces Laura Phillips, who has been promoted to senior vice president of entertainment. Both McCall and Phillips will report to Bratspies going forward.
Among the other personnel moves:
• Seong Ohm, most recently senior vice president of entertainment, has been named senior vice president of merchandise business services for Sam’s Club, where she will focus on developing a strategic approach to enhancing merchandising services for Sam’s business members.
• Ashley Buchanan has been promoted to senior vice president of snacks and beverages at Walmart, where he replaces …
• Steve Breen, who moves to São Paulo as chief merchandising officer for Walmart Brazil.
To strategically align Walmart’s “fresh” categories, Mac Naughton has promoted Scott Neal to the position of senior vice president of produce, meat and seafood (he previously served as vice president of meat and seafood), while DeDe Priest assumes the role of senior vice president of the deli, dairy, bakery and frozen categories. At the same time, Matt Kistler has been named senior vice president of dry groceries. He had previously been senior vice president of merchandise execution.
Mac Naughton announced other personnel changes as well, too many to detail here. But the real story is not the number of changes or the new roles many Walmart merchants will assume. Rather, it is the immense talent pool that Mac Naughton was able to draw on in an effort to strengthen a merchandising organization that is already among the most experienced and powerful in all of retailing.
Indeed, in shuffling personnel, Walmart’s chief merchant was not limited to moving people within the U.S. organization. The new assignments reach into the retailer’s Sam’s Club division and internationally as well, as far south as Walmart Brazil. He has been encouraged to pick the best people from within the entire Walmart organization. So it is that Seong Ohm previously spent two years working for Walmart’s Seiyu business, while Scott Neal had also previously worked for Walmart International.
Finally, and perhaps most impressively, many of the newly promoted Walmart merchants have not spent their entire careers, or even the majority of their working lives, at the world’s largest retailer. Carmen Bauza, for example, previously worked for both Bath & Body Works and the Walt Disney Co. John Aden came to Walmart from Mac Tools and, before that, the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo. Before joining Walmart, Bratspies was a senior vice president at Specialty Brands Inc., while Ashley Buchanan came to Walmart from Dell Computer and Accenture, and Matt Kistler joined Walmart after holding management positions at General Foods, Oscar Mayer and Kraft Foods.
Finally, there’s Michelle Gloeckler, among the most popular and most capable Walmart executives, who joined the retailer after a 20-year career at Hershey Co. Walmart, under its new personnel alignment, has created an expanded area of responsibility for Gloeckler, giving her authority over U.S. sourcing and manufacturing. Additionally, Gloeckler, a senior vice president, will retain responsibility over both the home category and the Strikeforce 2013 initiative she had previously led.
The point of all this is easily made: The world’s largest retailer is also an incredibly powerful business organization with a pool of talent that combines diversity of background, breadth of experience and length of tenure in its workforce to a degree rivaled by few businesses of any kind anywhere in the world. These most-recent personnel changes can only make an already formidable organization even more formidable.