The Supply Side: What’s next for after Lore’s exit?

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 2,335 views 

Marc Lore has been the face of for nearly five years after the retail giant acquired for $3.3 billion in September 2016. Lore stepped away from day-to-day management of Walmart at the end of January, but has agreed to stay on as a strategic adviser through September.

According to analysts who follow the retail sector, his contributions to the growth of Walmart’s e-commerce business are immense. Stewart Samuel, a retail analyst with IGD, said Lore made a transformational difference in Walmart’s e-commerce business and its ability to scale at pace.

“He accelerated initiatives including marketplace development and has been the driving force behind Walmart’s growth in e-commerce … including launching new and faster delivery services,” Samuel said.

He said while Lore’s departure will be a loss, the business has built up significant online shopping capabilities in recent years while also integrating the U.S. store merchandising teams with the online business buyer teams. He said this sets up nicely for the online business teams to report to Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner in the interim.

Lore oversaw Walmart’s e-commerce business growth, which grew 37% in 2019 and jumped 79% in the third fiscal quarter, thanks to the explosion in online grocery during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is also credited with a redesign of the e-commerce site and app, transforming the supply chain to support two-day and same-day delivery, and expanding online assortments to more than 80 million items, up from 10 million. Other Lore wins include launching the successful Allswell mattress brand and partnering with ThredUp and Shopify.

There also were some misses. He oversaw several online businesses’ acquisitions over 18 months, from Bonobos, Eloquii and Moosejaw. Other investments were sold off shortly after Walmart purchased them, such as Modcloth, Bare Necessities and Walmart also wound down in 2019 and folded that business into The Jetblack experiment in Manhattan was discontinued in early 2020 as the personal shopping service was unprofitable and unsustainable. He was also challenged to bring the online business to profitability.

Marc Lore

Carol Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckerman Retail, said Lore’s tenure shouldn’t just be judged by individual acquisitions and initiatives’ perceived success.

“Lore brought a digitally-focused entrepreneurial mindset to Walmart that encouraged risk-taking and nontraditional thinking,” Spieckerman said. “Even so, his departure comes at a time when Walmart is leaning more into partnerships than acquisitions, unifying stores with e-commerce rather than treating them as separate businesses and making big bets on monster categories like health and wellness. Walmart is pursuing new paths, and Lore is as well. Lore helped lay a foundation to enable Walmart’s confident expansion, and it’s a perfect time for him to pursue his many other interests.”

Keith Anderson, senior vice president of strategy at Profitero, said Lore leaves a successful legacy at Walmart. He said Lore helped define and develop the retail giant’s entrepreneurial culture. Lore was a former Amazon insider who could offer Walmart a road map for what it might take to compete head-to-head in the e-commerce space with Amazon and other giants.

Anderson said Lore helped Walmart define its path toward omnichannel — shopping by consumers using different platforms — and he helped Walmart find their positioning in a very competitive market.

He said Lore also played a role in ensuring the retailer has the right infrastructure and teams to compete at the highest level. He said Lore has worked to assemble the talent and category expertise Walmart needed to grow online sales successfully. Anderson said perhaps the results didn’t happen as Walmart initially planned in 2016, but there is no refuting Walmart has become a significant e-commerce player and an omnichannel leader.

“Marc Lore didn’t believe there would be one winner in e-commerce,” Anderson said. “He saw more than enough room for a strong challenger to Amazon. He gave Walmart a road map of how to get there, and that’s a big part of his legacy.”

Analysts continue to wonder if Lore was worth the $3.3 billion acquisition price of in 2016. Those who spoke with the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal agreed that Lore’s contributions would be felt for years to come. That said, none of the analysts have suggested who might replace Lore. Anderson said it seems likely Walmart will go with an insider as they don’t need another change-maker.

“Walmart would benefit from someone who has been in the trenches of the ongoing omnichannel transformation that Lore has overseen for the past couple of years,” Anderson said. “The retailer does not have the same urgency today as it did in 2016. Walmart also likes to promote from within when possible.”

Anderson said Furner is likely an interim choice, given he already has a full-time job overseeing the 5,500 U.S. stores.

While retail insiders said Walmart’s e-commerce future is bright, they said more investment would be needed. They said Walmart’s expansion in services is an exciting development to watch in the coming months as the retail giant continues to grow its ecosystem.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.