Walmart is making a change in top leadership for its Canadian business unit by moving Horacio Barbeito as a replacement for Lee Tappenden, who is leaving the company at the end of the fiscal year. Barbeito comes to the CEO role with 25 years of experience and he will take over for Tappenden in October, pending work authorization.
Barbeito will move from South America where he has served as president and CEO of Walmart Argentina and Chile since March 2015.
“We’re pleased that Barbeito’s next role will be leading Walmart Canada, where the team will benefit from his engaging approach and breadth of experience,” Dirk Van den Berghe, executive vice president at Walmart and regional CEO for Asia and Canada, said in a statement. “During his time in Argentina and Chile, he has led the business to consistently deliver strong performance while at the same time focusing on people through digital talent acquisition, talent development, and diversity and inclusion, resulting in increased engagement across the business.”
Barbeito joined Walmart from Deutsche Bank in Argentina where he was hired as a buyer trainee. He rose to lead imports and replenishment for Walmart Argentina from 1997 to 2000 before becoming a divisional merchandise manager. He moved to Walmart International in 2002, where he became a senior director for international replenishment. From 2005 to 2008, he led supply chain and store operations for Walmart Puerto Rico. He’s been at Walmart Argentina since 2008 working his way up to market president and CEO in 2012.
Tappenden will work with Barbeito through a brief transition period and then move to a short-term assignment with the retailer’s global sourcing team until his final departure Jan. 31. He has served as the head of Walmart Canada since August 2016 and held other leadership roles for Walmart Japan and within Walmart International during his 23-year tenure.
Walmart Canada is based in Ontario and operates 411 stores, the majority of which are Supercenters. Walmart said its Canadian business serves more than 1.2 million customers daily, and online the retailer is visited by more than 750,0000 customers each day.
Canada is one of the four largest markets for Walmart International. In the recent quarter ending July 31, the Canadian business reported comp sales up 1.2%. Comp transactions were down 1.7%, but overall comp tickets were up 2.9% in the quarter. The net sales were flat, and operating income fell, Walmart noted in the release.
Walmart said comp sales growth benefited from strength in grocery and fresh foods but were offset by softer sales in general merchandise and apparel. Walmart also finalized the sale of Walmart Canada Bank on April 1, 2019, which resulted in a 0.95% sales loss. Walmart said margins improved in the quarter but the sale of the financial interests were a headwind. A hike in minimum wages also pressured profits.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in prepared remarks on Aug. 15 that the Canadian GDP and retail environment continues to be soft. He said Walmart is managing around it and expanding its omnichannel offering with the addition of grocery pickup which will be available in nearly half of Walmart’s store base by the end of the year.
“We’re also expanding our partnership with Instacart for grocery delivery in Canada,” McMillon said.
Walmart has singled out Canada as one of its top four international markets for continued investment and growth opportunity.