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Walmart taps Simon to head U.S. stores

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — In what is seen as an effort to get its core domestic business back on track, Walmart has shaken up the leadership of its discount store business in the United States.

In what is seen as an effort to get its core domestic business back on track, Walmart has shaken up the leadership of its discount store business in the United States.

Bill Simon was named president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S. He succeeds Eduardo Castro-Wright, who remains vice chairman but is now responsible for Walmart’s e-commerce and global sourcing operations. And just days after taking charge, Simon announced that chief merchandising officer John Fleming will resign from the company.
Simon is a relative newcomer to Walmart, having joined the company in 2006 from restaurant chain operator Brinker International Inc., where he had served as senior vice president for global business development. At Walmart Simon served as chief operating officer.

"Bill is a strong leader who has made a positive difference from his first day at Walmart," said company president and chief executive officer Mike Duke. "He’s been responsible for successfully running more than 3,700 stores and leading 1.3 million associates in the U.S. He transformed the customer experience at Walmart through faster service, a friendlier shopping environment and cleaner stores. He also helped develop and launch our game-changing $4 prescription drug program and has continued to drive innovation and improvement throughout Walmart U.S. He is a talented strategist and an excellent people manager with strong execution skills."

Castro-Wright’s new position as president and CEO of Walmart’s and global sourcing operations will keep him responsible for a key part of Walmart’s business, Duke said, and will also address the executive’s family needs. Castro-Wright said in a memo to Walmart associates that his wife recently underwent a heart transplant in California.

"Appointing him to this role demonstrates our commitment and the importance we assign to these areas and to building the next-generation Walmart, while also allowing Eduardo to relocate to California to be with his family during his wife’s illness," Duke said.

Simon called Castro-Wright a mentor, and said he was honored to fill his shoes. In the company’s announcement of his new responsibilities, Simon also gave a hint as to his own priorities.

"My goal is to partner closely with our suppliers and build on the successes of our strategy over the last several years," he said. "Together we will bring a sense of urgency in the areas that matter most for the continued growth of our business — increasing customer traffic, ensuring our product assortment is even more relevant, and never ever giving an inch on price leadership."

Fleming, a former Target Corp. executive who joined Walmart in 2000 and has served as its chief merchant since early 2007, is widely credited with improving Walmart’s product assortment, particularly in the apparel and home departments.

A more recent effort to streamline assortments in a bid to cut costs proved controversial, however, and Walmart has since brought back a number of products it had culled from its shelves.

Simon called Fleming’s departure a personal decision, and credited him with building a strong team and having "been the architect of groundbreaking efforts to grow our e-commerce business, creative marketing programs to communicate with customers, and innovative merchandising initiatives."

Simon announced that two executives will shoulder Fleming’s responsibilities until a permanent successor is found. Jack Sinclair, executive vice president and general manager for grocery, will lead Walmart’s domestic food business, as well as the company’s health and wellness merchandising teams. John Westling, executive vice president of planning, pricing and replenishment, has been tapped to head Walmart’s general merchandising and replenishment teams. Both executives will report directly to Simon.

Simon also announced that Gisel Ruiz has been promoted from senior vice president to executive vice president of Walmart People.

"In her newly expanded role, Gisel is responsible for the human resources function across our field and home office operations," Simon said.

"Our leadership team will focus on picking up our pace to meet our challenges," Simon told employees in a memo on the moves. "We have an organization with the determination to compete to win in the marketplace. And we have you, our associates, who make a difference to our customers today and every day."


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