Wal-Mart’s merchandising chief to resign

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted July 2, 2010 at 10:41 a.m.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Chief Merchandising Officer John Fleming would resign from the company on Aug. 1, leaving the retail giant after 10 years of service and becoming the latest executive change.

The chief merchandising post is a key role for many retailers as that person typically steers a large staff and maintains relationships with vendors and suppliers. Wal-Mart is taking steps to improve its U.S. operations, with its high-profile move to open a second store in Chicago seen as a potential door-opener to other urban markets. The company also is opening smaller stores as it boosts its presence as a grocer.

Fleming, who has served in the merchandising chief role since early 2007, joined the company in 2000 as chief merchant of Walmart.com. He earned several promotions during his time at the company. Fleming also worked at rival Target Corp. for 19 years before joining Wal-Mart. A Wal-Mart representative wasn’t immediately available to comment on the company’s plans to replace Fleming.

The announcement came just days after Wal-Mart said it would move the head of its U.S. operations, Eduardo Castro-Wright, to oversee its international e-commerce group and global buying operations, and promote Bill Simon to fill his place.

While the company fared better than many nondiscount retailers during the recession, as low prices appealed to weary customers, it has posted four straight quarters of softer sales in the U.S. The company’s apparel business, in particular, has looked in disarray compared with the inexpensive chic fashions of Target.

Shares were recently down 0.6 percent to $48.04. The stock is off 10 percent this year.

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