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New Wal-Mart Leader to Focus On Domestic Domination

BY Murray Forseter

Within the space of two weeks’ time early next year, we will inaugurate a new leader of the most powerful nation in the world on Jan. 20, followed on Feb. 1 by the transition to a new leader of the largest and most powerful retail company in the world. H. Lee Scott, while remaining chairman of the executive committee of Wal-Mart’s board of directors, will be replaced as CEO and president by Michael T. Duke.

I do not mean to trivialize the occupant of the Oval Office by comparing him to the executive who sits in the same office where Sam Walton envisioned a global empire. But a case could easily be made that in the nine years that Lee Scott held the highest office in retailing, his policies directly affected the daily lives of American and global citizens as much as, if not more than, the president of the United States. During Scott’s stewardship, he has grown in stature and in understanding the power a company with $400 billion in sales can wield.

Take Hurricane Katrina as an example. Wal-Mart mobilized support for Gulf citizen-consumers faster and better than the federal and state governments.

Another example—while the federal government dawdled on energy conservation, Wal-Mart acted. It developed energy-saving technologies for its stores and truck fleet. And, one day before revealing Scott’s retirement, Wal-Mart announced it would make its first substantial purchase of wind energy to power operations in Texas. The renewable energy will supply up to 15% of the retailer’s total energy load for approximately 360 Texas stores and other Wal-Mart facilities. The wind farm will begin producing electricity for the chain by April 2009.

Under Scott, Wal-Mart also championed the sale of energy-efficient light bulbs and organic-cotton products. It funded local farming efforts. It provided counseling to small retailers affected by its massive stores.

Wal-Mart has not been a perfect corporate citizen during Scott’s term of office. But he has not been dogmatic. He has opened dialogue with many of the company’s detractors and critics.

When Scott first assumed office in 2000, he was barely known outside Bentonville. In the last nine years he has transformed Wal-Mart from being just a selling machine (which it still is) to a company that more completely understands its global position and responsibilities. But as important as world markets are to Wal-Mart, the short-term emphasis of the new leadership may well focus anew on the domestic front.

As vice chairman of the international division, Duke has amassed foreign experience and expertise. But let’s not overlook his 23 years with Federated and May Department Stores. He knows U.S. retailing.

Days before the transition announcement, which included his elevation to vice chairman, Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and CEO of Wal-Mart US, told a Morgan Stanley Global Consumer & Retail Conference the company will focus on 15 “opportunity markets…where we have a 3.9% share as opposed to our average of 8.9%. Those 15 markets represent 34% of total U.S. retail sales, and they are nearly the size of the entire retail market in China and larger than Russia and India combined.”

As the current economic crisis spreads across the globe, world expansion apparently will take a back seat to continued domestic domination.

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Kohl’s, Forever 21 win bid for 46 former Mervyn’s stores

BY CSA STAFF

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. Kohl’s and Forever 21 won a joint bid for the leaseholds of 46 former Mervyn’s locations valued at approximately $6.25 million.

Kohl’s will assume 31 of the locations while Forever 21 will assume 15, pending approval by the court overseeing Mervyns bankruptcy proceedings.

“We are pleased with the results of the auction,” said Kevin Mansell, president and ceo for Kohl’s Department Stores. “With over 1,000 stores from coast to coast, these locations provide increased presence in under penetrated markets. We will continue to be opportunistic and prudent in our discussions with the owners of select Mervyns real estate as we continue to position Kohl’s to grow market share.”

In fiscal 2009, the Kohl’s said it continues to expect to open approximately 50 stores, including the majority of the 31 former Mervyns’ locations.

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Bazaarvoice appoints new CFO

BY CSA STAFF

AUSTIN, Texas Bazaarvoice, which provides social commerce applications that drive sales, announced that Ken Saunders has joined the company as CFO. Saunders has over 25 years of experience as a senior financial executive at companies including Open Solutions, Peregrine Systems, Fair Isaac Corp. and Arthur Andersen. In his new role at Bazaarvoice, Saunders will guide all aspects of the company’s financial operations, as well as lead the team responsible for day-to-day finance, IT and human operations.

“Bazaarvoice is not only the most innovative social commerce company in the industry, it’s the fastest growing, serving hundreds of major brands worldwide and adding more at a very rapid clip,” said Saunders. “As CFO, I look forward to working with Bazaarvoice’s executive team to drive the company’s growth now and into the future, as they continue to transform the way people interact and shop online.”

“Ken has a wealth of world-class financial experience at both private and public companies, and we’re thrilled to welcome him to the executive team as Bazaarvoice continues to cement its market leadership in the social commerce space,” said Brett Hurt, founder and CEO of Bazaarvoice. “As more and more retailers worldwide embrace the customer voice as a key brand and marketing tool, Bazaarvoice is poised for rapid growth – and Ken is the perfect person to lead our company’s financial strategy.”

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