As Walmarts top food exec, Redfield enjoys a challenge
Charles Redfield, executive vice president of food at Walmart U.S., believes success often comes when people take risks.
“Take a leap of faith, because it can become very rewarding,” said Redfield, a Bentonville native. “I always say, ‘get comfortable being uncomfortable.’ That is when individuals develop the most.”
Redfield began his retail career in the 1980s at the Springdale Sam’s Club. He worked as a part-time cashier during off-hours from his coursework at the University of Arkansas.
Twenty-five years later, he became a C-level executive for Sam’s Club, and now he runs the $167 billion grocery division at Walmart U.S.
Redfield has spent 24 years of his 27-year retail career working for Wal-Mart Stores, and he praises the culture.
“We are constantly improving, growing and innovating,” he said. “But, our respect for the individual, service to our customers, our strive for excellence and acting with integrity has only strengthened.”
Redfield was senior vice president of merchandising in fresh/health and wellness for Sam’s Club when he was featured in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 in 2007.
Since then, he served for two years as chief merchandising officer at Asda (2010-2012), Walmart’s U.K.-based subsidiary, then returned to Sam’s Club in the U.S. as chief merchandising officer. He took on his current leadership role at Walmart U.S. in 2015.
“Over the last 10 years, I have been fortunate that my breadth of responsibility has continued to grow. And with each changing position, I have needed to adapt to the demands of each one of them,” Redfield said. “The interesting thing is, the key to success has been the same in each role: It’s about people and surrounding yourself with a good team. You, as an individual, can accomplish many things, but a successful team can accomplish exponentially more.”
His favorite thing about his work is the people.
“It really makes things enjoyable. But, the other thing is that I am constantly challenged day in and day out. There is never a boring day,” he said.
“As for my least favorite thing, it has to be when I don’t get to spend as much time in our stores with our customers and associates,” said Redfield, whose early years in the company were on the operations side.
After college, he became store manager and further pursued work in store operations when he took a position at Canada-based Hudson Bay in 1998. However, several years after returning to Sam’s Club in 2003, he switched gears to merchandising.
While Redfield was born and raised in Bentonville, where he now lives, his career has prompted him to move 10 times within and outside the United States.
“I realize that it is a big world out there, but it’s also very small at the same time,” Redfield said. “I have learned that retail is very similar around the world. Customers want great value — both price and quality — and great service, when it is given to them with simplicity.
“I have also learned, no matter where you are in the world, that retail is a people business,” he said.
When Redfield moved to the U.K. for two years to work at Asda, he brought his family with him. And while he said both the professional and personal aspects of the experience were “fantastic, there is no place like home.”
He and his wife Sue have two sons, Matthew, 13, who was born in Bentonville, and Avery, 17, who was born in Canada, but the family moved back to Arkansas when he was very young.
Bentonville is home, Redfield said, but now he’s looking forward to the next stages for the family.
“What’s next for me is to make sure I see both of my boys through high school and on to college and help set them up for success in life. Sue and I are excited about what the future holds for both them and us,” Redfield said. He likes to exercise and spend time with his kids in his spare time, when he is not running one of the world’s largest food operations.
Redfield joined Walmart U.S.’s grocery business at a pivotal time for the company, as it remains a giant in the industry but faces competition not only from grocers, but from other discount stores and e-commerce businesses.
“As for Walmart grocery, we want to grow,” Redfield said. “And to do that, we have to remain focused on customers and how they are changing. They have high expectations, and it’s our job to exceed those.”