Wal-Mart makes high-level executive changes in U.S, China

by The City Wire staff (info@thecitywire.com) 303 views 

Wal-Mart is making several major management moves related to its operations in China and the U.S., with the moves possibly tied to a rumored larger shift in employment at the retailer’s headquarter operations in Bentonville.

In recent internal memo received Thursday (Aug. 20) by The City Wire, Wal-Mart announced that Marybeth Hays, senior vice president over the home category for Walmart U.S., will move to chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart China. In this role, she will oversee the management of merchandising, marketing, supply chain and financial services “to drive an integrated strategy that ensures sustainable growth" and report to Sean Clarke, CEO of Walmart China, the memo noted.
Hays joined Sam’s Club in 2009 as senior vice president over home and apparel. In 2012, she joined Walmart U.S. as senior vice president for apparel, where she was was part of an effort to expand several categories. Prior to Walmart, she held merchandising and marketing leadership roles with Lowe’s Home Improvement, Lexington Furniture and HanesBrands Inc. In addition to her professional experience. 

The memo also says Rick Hays, who has served as vice president of hardware and paint for Walmart U.S., will take over as the general merchandise and merchandising officer for Sam’s Club China. He will report to Neil Maffey. Rick Hays has been a merchant buyer at Walmart for 35 years. 

Clarke said both executives will relocate to China upon work authorization. Also in this shift, John Furner, will leave the role of chief merchandising and marketing officer for Walmart China and move to the U.S. for another job that will be announced soon.

Clarke praised Furner’s work in China.

“During this period, he centralized the buying functions to Shenzhen, and drove significant improvements in buying leverage and reduced organizational complexity. He has also overseen a similar journey of centralization in our replenishment and distribution network,” Clarke noted in the memo. “All of this work has translated into tangible results: improved profitability and price leadership in the market, leading to consistent and significant share gains.”


A separate memo by Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran also circulated on Thursday (Aug. 20)  gave more details on shifts underway in the U.S division. Foran said Scott McCall, senior vice president of general merchandise (seasonal), is being moved to the bedding, bath, cook and dine, home decor and home management categories. McCall will also retain his position over the toys and celebration categories.

Terry Price, senior vice president of hardlines, will also assume responsibility over outdoor living, stationery, automotive, sporting goods, hardware and paint categories. Laura Wilkin, senior vice president, replenishment will now oversee “Flow Strategy and Systems Innovation,” Foran noted in the memo.

With that, he said Wilkin will oversee the development of tools to enhance supply change visibility and forecasting while improving product flow to stores.

“After 25 years in supply chain consulting and logistics leadership roles, she joined Walmart in December 2010,” Foran noted in the memo.

He said Wilkin was last promoted to vice president, supply chain in the retailer’s Pacific division in 2013. She will continue reporting to Scott Huff, executive vice president, merchandising operations.

Scott Pleiman, senior vice president, strategy, pricing, planning and modular development, will assume responsibility of replenishment. Foran said he will also continue his leadership role with the “Pricing Strategy and Assortment Discipline LEGACY projects.” Foran added, “Scott has made great strides in driving alignment and strategy among our support teams and is well-positioned to oversee this organization. He will continue reporting to Scott Huff.”

Local Wal-Mart experts said the management shifts are not being done in a vacuum and could perhaps be a precursor to the rumored downsizing of the retailer’s corporate home office ranks in Bentonville that was first reported by The City Wire on July 10.

The City Wire learned last month that Wal-Mart is planning to downsize its home office head count with as many as 100 vice president or higher ranked jobs being eliminated, by November. Estimates for the purge run as a high as 1,000 overall or, roughly 5% of the retailer’s corporate office workforce.

Cameron Smith, CEO of Cameron Smith & Associates, said last month that the layoff rumors continue to surface every day.

“This leads me to believe it will happen, and probably in the few weeks,” Smith noted in a July 27 email.

Smith is so confident of a pending layoff that he’s taken time to educate his staff of corporate recruiters and plan for what could be the biggest corporate downsizing by the retail giant since 2009 when 800 local jobs were eliminated.

“Based on the last layoff, we are bracing for a surge of phone calls, emails, and resumes. Please remember, these people are our neighbors and friends,” Smith noted in the memo to his recruitment staff. 

Wal-Mart has neither confirmed or denied the rumored downsizing. The retailer did say that like all companies do from time to time, it is evaluating its management structure.

The pending layoff was a not surprise to analysts like Brian Yarbrough of Edward Jones, who said most of retail is going through this kind of purge and it’s inline with what Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon is trying to accomplish in reducing expenses and shifting focus back out to the stores. McMillon told analysts on June 5 that he intended to shift more energy back to serving stores. He said the management structure had become too bureaucratic and bloated overtime. 

“There are no cash registers in the home office,” McMillon told analysts in the June 5 question and answer session that followed the company’s annual shareholder meeting.