Kathryn McLay named CEO of Sam’s Club

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 1,834 views 

Walmart has named Kathryn McLay, 45, as CEO for Sam’s Club.  McLay replaced John Furner who was promoted to CEO of Walmart U.S. effective Nov. 1.

McLay joined Walmart in April 2015 as vice president of U.S. finance and strategy. She was promoted to senior vice president, U.S. supply chain in December 2015, in which she worked until February 2019. She has worked as head of Neighborhood Markets for Walmart since February when Todd Harbaugh was promoted to head of supercenters with the retirement of Mike Moore.

Prior to joining Walmart, McLay worked for 14 years in a variety of strategic, financial, and supply chain roles at Woolworths Limited, a prominent Australian retailer. Greg Foran, former CEO of Walmart U.S., also came to Walmart from Woolworths and he is credited with a major turnaround of the Walmart U.S. division, which is now run by Furner.

She will begin as the Sam’s Club CEO effective Nov. 15. Her base salary will be $780,000 the first year and is eligible for annual cash incentives based on performance. McLay will be eligible to receive an annual equity award valued at $6.6 million, generally consisting of a combination of restricted stock and performance-based restricted stock units. McLay will also receive an additional award of approximately 43,582 performance-based restricted stock units in connection with her promotion.

McLay was a bit of a surprise to the retail world as many thought Walmart might promote company veteran Charles Redfield. Most of the experts who spoke with Talk Business & Politics thought Walmart would likely promote from within the company. McLay has been on the fast track at Walmart during the past four years, holding three different jobs prior to this promotion. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Technology, in Sydney, Australia.

Kathryn McLay, CEO of Sam’s Club

Scott Benedict, director for the center of retail at Texas A&M University, said recently he expected Redfield to get the nod if Walmart decided to hire from within. He didn’t think Walmart would likely hire from the outside, but said it did happen with Brian Cornell, who served prior to Rosalind Brewer.

Brewer was the first woman CEO at Sam’s Club and another fast-track executive at Walmart. She held the Sam’s Club CEO role for five years before leaving the company in 2017. She is credited with making large strides in e-commerce with initiates like scan and go. But throughout her tenure, comparable club sales averaged gains of just 0.5% over seven quarters.

Furner was brought back from China in 2016, where he managed merchandising for Sam’s Clubs, to work as a chief merchandising officer under Brewer until she exited the company. Furner assumed the CEO role in early 2017 and grew sales for 10 consecutive quarters, while also increasing memberships.

Carol Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Retail in Bentonville, said while it made sense to elevate an insider who can stay the course and identify opportunities to grow the business, Sam’s could use an infusion of new thinking.

“I would advocate for an outside hire at Sam’s, ideally from a digital background. Hopefully, the hire will happen sooner than later. Walmart can’t afford to leave Sam’s rudderless going into the holiday shopping season,” Spieckerman said.

Link here for McLay’s bio.

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