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Wal-Mart names Greg Penner, Rob Walton’s son-in-law, as vice chairman

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Wal-Mart Stores named Greg Penner, 44, to the new role of vice chairman, a move that positions him to be a successor to chairman Rob Walton. Penner, 44, is Walton’s son-in-law and has served on the board since 2008. The appointment was announced Friday morning at the company’s shareholders’ meeting.

The move strengthens the Walton family’s control of the board. Walton, 69, is the son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

“One of the board’s most important responsibilities is long-term succession planning, and the company spends considerable time planning for stability and continuity, both at the board and management level,” said Walton, who will remain chairman of the board of directors. “In keeping with this commitment, I’m pleased with Greg’s appointment. Walmart has benefited from his broad expertise in strategic planning, finance and investment matters.”

Penner has served on Walmart’s board since 2008. He is chair of the technology and eCommerce committee and also serves on the global compensation and strategic planning and finance committees.

“I am committed to the long-term success of Walmart,” said Penner. “My first Walmart experience was in 1994 and over the years I’ve developed a deep appreciation for our associates and their service to our customers. I look forward to contributing to a stronger Walmart in any way possible including how we develop new digital capabilities to add to our store offering. This is an exciting time to be part of Walmart.”

Penner has been a general partner of investment management firm Madrone Capital Partners since 2005. From 2002 to 2005, he served as Walmart’s senior VP and CFO, Japan. Prior to that role, he was SVP of finance and strategy for Walmart.com.

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Report: Coach to discount handbags

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York — Coach Inc. will reportedly start offering 25% discounts on its luxury handbags at its stores in twice-a-year sales during June and December. According to Bloomberg, Coach will reduce prices on end-of-season and discount merchandise from 30-50%.

Coach has never before discounted items in its own full-price stores, although it does operate outlet stores and has conducted sales with third-party retail partners. The first discount period starts with an invite-only presale June 6-12, followed by a general sale. Coach is launching the discount strategy after reporting declining net income, net sales and same-store sales during its third quarter fiscal 2014.

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Capgemini survey details critical components in successful omnichannel strategy

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Mobile shopping, same-day delivery, and growing volumes of data from online channels are forcing retailers to a tipping point to remain competitive and better respond to evolving customer needs and preferences, according to a new research report by Capgemini Group.

The study, “Are You Ready? How to Create an Always-On, Always-Open Shopping Experience” done in conjunction with information standards organization GS1, is based on in-depth interviews with major U.S. apparel and general merchandise retail leaders. Top findings show that omni-channel retailing, which provides customers with a consistent research, shopping, purchasing and fulfillment experience regardless of channel, lies at the heart of many retailer transformation efforts.

“Retailers are transforming their organizations and market approaches to leverage the power of digital and satisfy the needs of the ever-changing consumer,” said Dan Albright, senior VP, Capgemini Consulting. “The digital transformation journey to omnichannel is multi-faceted and requires retailers to reevaluate every aspect of how they serve the market. Leading retailers have already taken significant steps in their omnichannel journey, but there are still many objectives that must be met to continue building on recent progress. As the report reveals, the imperative for 2014 and beyond is to keep the strategy moving forward by enabling an agile infrastructure and greater inventory visibility to seamlessly serve consumers when, where, and how they shop.”

The results of the survey reveal four critical components required to help drive a successful omnichannel strategy:

1. Inventory Visibility. Inventory identification, tracking and management are the core competencies that matter most in omni-channel retailing. Supply chain visibility and inventory accuracy are foundational requirements for effective omnichannel operations and to allow the retailer to know where its inventory is at all times. New standards such as Electronic Product Code (EPC)-enabled Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) are enabling leading retailers to drive pinpoint precision in their inventory accuracy in real-time.

2. Web-Ready Products. Making products “web-ready” is an important component of a successful omni-channel retail operation, but is currently a bottleneck for many retailers. Key product information, attributes and images are not always accurate, standardized or readily available for retailers or their trading partners. However, emerging standards in this area can provide the foundation for identifying, capturing and sharing product data, providing the industry with the opportunity to collaborate on bringing products to the online marketplace faster.

3. Predictive Customer Analytics. Consumers are increasingly sharing valuable information through social data, product reviews, and online visits and purchases. Leading retailers are using predictive analytics to gain deeper insight into customer behaviors, trends and the forces of loyalty and purchase. Retailers that take advantage of sophisticated algorithms and data-mining activities — which analyze current social data, product reviews and historical facts to track shopping patterns — have a greater ability to create an individual shopping experience based on rich information sources.

4. Fulfillment Strategy. Fulfillment options need to be robust and varied for today’s “always-on, always-open” shoppers. Retailers are focused on building in-store, web-store and direct-to-consumer options and many are leveraging existing and new infrastructure in creative ways. By using their storefront locations as distribution centers, retailers are better positioned to deliver products quickly to the customer. Standards-based technology such as EPC-enabled RFID will be critical in providing the requisite level of visibility to make this a reality.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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