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Bill Simon for president in 2016?

BY CSA STAFF

Okay, maybe not president, but if or when Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon leaves the company after being passed over for the top job, it will be Walmart’s loss and the nation’s benefit if he pursues political office or public service.

During his nearly eight years with Walmart, Simon has spearheaded populist initiatives in the areas of pharmacy, food, domestic sourcing and veteran’s employment. A Navy veteran himself, Simon has “crossed the aisle,” as politicians are fond of saying, having served in the administration of former Florida Republican governor Jeb Bush and more recently rubbing shoulders on multiple occasions with top Obama administration officials and the First Lady. Looking at his track record at Walmart and public comments, Simon comes across as a centrist who embraces the small government, limited regulation, free market ideals of Republications, but whose business accomplishments are focused on helping lower and middle income Americans live a better life.

Early on, it was Walmart’s $4 generic drug program that got Simon noticed shortly after arriving at Walmart with no retail experience. At one point he appeared alongside Jeb Bush at a Walmart pharmacy in Orlando, Fla., when it was announced the popularity of the program had led to an accelerated rollout.

Simon embraced Walmart’s business model, and when he was elevated to the role of COO and later CEO of Walmart U.S., he was the force who restored the emphasis on the traditional every day low price business model to Walmart’s floundering U.S. business. Simon served as an articulate spokesman for the Walmart way of conducting business as a means to fulfill the company’s mission of saving people money so they could live better. That philosophy was evident in the company’s real estate and merchandising strategy. On Simon’s watch, Walmart committed to opening stores in areas identified as “food deserts,” where residents lack access to healthy and affordable food. That decision aligned the company with the Obama administration and the First Lady’s anti-obesity initiative. Walmart also committed to reformulating processed foods and lowering prices on fresh foods as the cornerstones of a broader effort to make food healthier and healthier food more affordable.

Many of the domestic strategies Walmart has pursued on Simon’s watch have political overtones, and were it not for Walmart’s involvement, might even sound like government programs. This phenomenon was especially evident on several occasions this year. Back in January, when Simon was the featured speaker at the annual convention of the National Retail Federation, he gave a forceful speech about restoring America that was underpinned by two new Walmart initiatives.

The company vowed to hire 100,000 veterans in the next five years as part of its own economic stimulus program and also unveiled a domestic sourcing initiative that called for purchasing $50 billion in goods from domestic suppliers. The manner in which Simon spoke and the subject matter of his presentation lent his remarks the feel of a campaign speech.

More recently, when Walmart convened its first ever domestic sourcing summit in Orlando, Simon gave an equally impassioned appeal to an audience of several thousand that included Democratic and Republican governors from nearly a dozen states.

At this point, Simon’s future at Walmart is known to only a handful of people. Were he to leave though, it is not too hard to imagine him achieving political success or serving as a senior government official, especially considering the type of leadership he has displayed at Walmart and his breadth of professional experience.

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Sears Canada streamlines business

BY CSA STAFF

Sears Canada is undergoing a six-month reorganization that will result in 712 job cuts, including 79 staffers who have already been terminated at its head office.

According to Sears, the head office staff reduction aligns its support structure with the size and volume of the organization and also takes advantage of internal processes that have been recently implemented to improve efficiency.

In addition, in its repair service division, Sears Canada will be shifting to using exclusively Sears-authorized contracted technicians in mid-markets, which it has been using in smaller markets for several years, resulting in a reduction of Sears technicians and support teams in these locations. Due to their complexity and size, major markets will continue to be primarily serviced by Sears technicians, although the teams will be streamlined. There has also been a shift of in-warranty repair work on major appliances from Sears to its suppliers as is the industry standard.

In the parts division, 16 existing stand-alone parts processing locations and a central processing center in Belleville, Ontario will be consolidated into three major fulfillment centers located in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Where a parts processing location is closing outside of these three cities, a parts counter will open in a nearby Sears location so that customers can continue to have local access. This model has been piloted in three locations with what the company says has been no impact to customer service.

The reorganization of repair services and parts will result in the streamlining of support functions in both the company’s head office and the field including consolidating the dispatch function to one English language center in Toronto and one French language center in Montreal.

"The changes we are announcing today are being made to bring the structure of our organization in line with the size of our business," said Doug Campbell, president and CEO, Sears Canada. "These improvements are initiatives we are implementing as part of the efficiency lever, one of the three levers we utilize along with the merchandising lever and network lever to maximize total value for the organization. While right-sizing is important for a more effective enterprise, our greatest opportunity lies within the merchandising lever, where our focus is on providing quality products and services that Canadians expect from Sears when and where they want them at prices that provide great value.”

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Meijer gears up for Cyber Week

BY CSA STAFF

Meijer is extending Cyber Monday into a weeklong sales event on Meijer.com, offering customers deep discounts and free shipping on orders of more than $75. The Midwestern retailer will offer Cyber Week savings from Sunday through Dec. 7.

"The big difference for Cyber Monday customers is not what they are buying, but how they are buying it," said Liwanag Ojala, VP of e-commerce, who expects online sales from mobile devices to be 10 times higher at Meijer than in 2012. "Having less time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the new trend will be multitasking between Thanksgiving football games, family get-togethers and shopping for deals on your smartphone or tablet. Our shoppers thrive in our seamless online experience and we’re excited they’ll have more flexibility to customize their savings for holiday shopping."

The Meijer’s Cyber Week event will offer discounts up to 50% off select toys, electronics and holiday decorations. Shoppers will also be given the option of having their orders shipped free to their local Meijer store. The tactic generates foot traffic into the brick-and-mortar stores and potentially generates additional sales as shoppers tick off last-minute items from their holiday lists.

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