retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart announced yesterday that John Furner, who has been running its Sam's Club division, will step up to be CEO of Walmart US.

He succeeds Greg Foran, who is leaving the company to become CEO of Air New Zealand Ltd.

The Wall Street Journal provides the following context:

"Mr. Foran, 58, took over Walmart’s biggest division in 2014 and led a turnaround in the U.S. by pulling back on new-store openings and investing to improve existing stores.

"Mr. Foran is known as a demanding, detail-oriented boss who worked long hours and often took other executives with him on a company plane on Saturdays to visit stores. He has focused on reducing the inventory in stores and more consistently stocking shelves to boost sales, improving customer service, as well as cutting spending on store labor to invest in such new projects as online grocery delivery.

"He clashed with the head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce operations, Marc Lore, over spending and strategy, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Foran didn’t return a request for comment. Mr. Lore declined to comment."

And, there's this information: "Like Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, Mr. Furner is a Walmart veteran who joined the company as an hourly store worker and worked his way up the ranks. Mr. Furner’s father was a Walmart executive and still works part time at a Walmart store near the company’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters."

In a statement, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said: "Greg Foran has made a huge difference for Walmart, and we are grateful. He built a strong plan from the beginning to strengthen the U.S. business – a plan that made significant choices around investing in wages and benefits for associates and investing in price for customers. Greg’s ability to innovate, whether it’s making our stores a competitive advantage in an omnichannel environment or equipping associates with next generation technology and training, has helped position us for the future. The results have been impressive – every quarter he led Walmart U.S. it has had positive comps. Before leading us to a stronger position in the U.S., he did the same thing in China. We will miss Greg and thank him for his leadership. He has made a difference for our customers, associates and shareholders.”

And, he added: “John has done a fantastic job at Sam’s Club, and he will continue the momentum we have in Walmart U.S. John knows our business well, having held many different jobs in the company over more than 25 years, and he is helping transform it for the future. He has the experience and judgment to know what we should continue doing and what we should change. He embraces technology and new ways of working, and he keeps our customers and Sam’s Club members at the center of everything we do, while delivering results for the business. I look forward to seeing his impact for our customers and associates in Walmart U.S."
KC's View:
There's no question that Walmart has been firing on all cylinders of late, and so there is no reason to think that this executive shift will change that. I don't think anyone would argue that Walmart is breaking its executive mold with this move, but I guess when things are working you don't make radical moves.