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Changing of guard

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Sam’s Club chief executive officer John Furner is set to assume the high-profile role of CEO of Walmart U.S. on November 1. Furner is succeeding Greg Foran, who is leaving the company to return to his native New Zealand to lead Air New Zealand Ltd.

Foran, who joined Walmart in 2011 and was promoted to lead Walmart U.S. in 2014, will remain with the company through January to ease the transition, Walmart said in a statement earlier this month.

“Greg Foran has made a huge difference for Walmart, and we are grateful,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said. “He built a strong plan from the beginning to strengthen the U.S. business — a plan that made significant choices around investing in wages and benefits for associates and investing in price for customers. Greg’s ability to innovate, whether it’s making our stores a competitive advantage in an omnichannel environment or equipping associates with next-generation technology and training, has helped position us for the future.”

Furner, 45, started with Wal­mart as an hourly associate in 1993, working part time in the garden center of a Supercenter.

He worked his way up through a number of frontline leadership roles, later becoming a store manager, district manager and buyer, Walmart noted in announcing his promotion.

Furner has held leadership roles in operations, merchandising and sourcing in Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club and Walmart International, where he served at Walmart China as chief merchandising and marketing officer.

Prior to becoming Sam’s Club CEO, in 2017, he was chief merchandising officer for Sam’s Club.

Furner will partner with Walmart U.S. eCommerce CEO Marc Lore to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience for Walmart’s U.S. customers, the company noted.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity and ready to get started,” said Furner. “There’s no better place than Walmart U.S. to touch the lives of millions of customers and associates. Together with the team, we will build on the progress under Greg’s leadership and continue to make Walmart an even better place to work and shop. I also want to thank the Sam’s Club team. My years with you have been amazing.”

In his new role, Furner will oversee more than 4,500 stores and about 1.5 million employees. He assumes oversight of a U.S. division that has parlayed investments in store upgrades, lower prices and new technology into robust sales growth. In August, Walmart U.S. posted its 20th consecutive quarter of sales gains and its 19th quarter of traffic increases. Net sales in its fiscal second quarter were up 2.9% to $85.2 billion. Sales at Walmart stores in the U.S. open for at least 12 months and its website were up 2.8%, excluding fuel. E-commerce sales increased 37%.

In reporting the unit’s strong quarterly performance, Foran cited a combination of factors, from a healthy economy to improvements to the grocery business, where fresh food sales led to the company’s best grocery comps in nine years. Foran said shoppers were responding to its grocery pickup option, which was available in more than 1,800 locations at the end of the ­quarter.

“It has been an honor to lead the team at Walmart U.S.,” Foran said in a statement announcing his departure from the company. “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to achieve at a unique moment for retail and want to thank the associates who made it happen. It is bittersweet to leave Walmart, but this incredible opportunity to lead an iconic Kiwi brand was one I could not pass up, and I’m looking forward to this next chapter.”

Foran, 58, holds a diploma in management from The Institute of Management in Auckland, New Zealand, and he attended advanced management programs at Harvard University and the University of Virginia.

The son of school teachers, Foran started his career stacking shelves in a supermarket in Hamilton, New Zealand. At age 20, Foran became a store manager in the Woolworths supermarket chain, where he rose quickly and held a number of high-level positions. Foran left Woolworths in 2011 for a job with Walmart to head its international division.


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