Walmart on Friday (Jan. 17) confirmed a few changes to key leadership positions with its U.S. division. Following the exit of Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran, it was expected that new CEO John Furner would make a few changes to his immediate reports.
Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at Walmart U.S. for the past four years, is leaving the company. He has not said what his future plans will be. Bratspies has been with Walmart for 14 years and said it is time for a new challenge.
“He has been a critical part of the transformation of our business – improving our food offerings, leaning into digital tools and fueling our growth through great merchandise – and his work on pricing has made a meaningful difference in the lives of our customers. Steve is ready for a new challenge, and we wish him all the best,” Walmart said in the internal memo circulated Friday to employees.
Walmart said Scott McCall will replace Bratspies as chief merchandising officer. McCall has been with Walmart for 25 years, having started as a management trainee. He has overseen many categories as a buyer, divisional merchandise manager and general merchandise manager. Most recently he led the entertainment, toys and season categories.
“Scott is a world-class merchant who understands our customers and the ways they want to shop with us,” Furner said in the release.
McCall will report directly to Furner. The position of chief operating officer has been open since Judith McKenna vacated it more than two years ago to assume the role of CEO of Walmart International. Furner has tagged Dacona Smith for that position. Like Furner, Smith is a Walmart lifer, logging nearly 30 years with the retailer and starting as an hourly employee. Smith came up through the operations segment at Walmart holding key leadership roles at the senior vice president level. He was most recently chief operating officer at Sam’s Club.
“He is a widely respected leader who is known for his passion for taking care of customers and associates and his consistency of execution,” Furner noted in the release.
Kathryn McLay was recently promoted to Sam’s Club CEO, leaving open the role of executive vice president of Neighborhood Markets. Walmart has selected Kelvin Buncum to fill the position. Buncum has served as a regional general manager for the North Georgia region. He has worked at Sam’s Club in leadership roles including innovations and global processes. He will report to Smith, as will Todd Harbaugh, executive vice president of Supercenters at Walmart U.S. and Mark Ibbotson, executive vice president of central operations.
Walmart is also promoting Latriece Watkins to executive vice president of consumables. She has spent 20 years at Walmart starting as an intern on the real estate team. She has been a buyer and oversaw beverages and snacks and other consumable categories. Watkins will report to McCall.
Walmart has created a new executive vice president position chief product officer to be filled by Meng Chee who will report to Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer. Walmart said the new role will focus on delivering outstanding customer experiences and leveraging technology to do it. Meng comes to Walmart from J.P. Morgan where he served as a digital chief experience officer. Prior to that, he held similar roles at Samsung Mobile, Nokia and Frog Design. Meng and his family are in the process of relocating to Bentonville. He will start this position on Feb. 3.
Walmart also hired Alex Kreuger as senior vice president of voice of the customer and he will lead an expanded customer care organization under Whiteside’s supervision. Kreuger comes to the new role from Walmart’s supply chain division where he managed fulfillment centers. Walmart said it will share more details of Chee and Kreuger’s responsibilities in the coming weeks.
Lance de la Rosa is being promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer at Sam’s Club, the position vacated by the promotion of Dacona Smith. He joined Walmart more than 30 years ago as an hourly trainee and moved into several operational leadership roles at Walmart and Sam’s Club.
“He has been an integral part of getting Sam’s Club back to the warehouse model. His operations, merchandising and overall retail experience will serve in well in this new role,” McLay noted in the memo.
She also announced Vinod Bidarkoppa will join Sam’s Club on Feb. 5 as senior vice president of technology at Sam’s Club. He comes to the retailer with 25 years of experience, most recently as senior vice president of technology at United Healthcare Group. He held similar roles at TESCO. Bidarkoppa will report to Suresh Kumar, global chief technology officer, and Jamie Iannone, CEO of SamsClub.com.