Walmart's Chief Merchant Departing

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Bentonville, Ark. - Walmart's chief merchandising officer John Fleming is leaving the company after 10 years.

Word of his departure comes days after Walmart's U.S. president/CEO Eduardo Castro-Wright was reassigned to global sourcing and e-commerce duties.

In an open letter to employees, Castro-Wright's successor, Bill Simon, said Fleming "made a personal decision to leave the company," reportedly to spend more time with family. He said Fleming built a strong team over the past decade, and described him as "the architect of groundbreaking efforts to grow our e-commerce business, creative marketing programs to communicate with customers and inventive merchandising initiatives."

His role will be filled on a temporary basis by two senior executives who oversee groceries and replenishment.

Fleming's efforts to upgrade Walmart's product assortment backfired in apparel, where more fashion-forward looks and sizes fell flat with the chain's customer base. More recently, the company acknowledged it erred by cutting back SKUs to un-clutter stores and drive efficiencies, which led to customer dissatisfaction.

This week's changes in senior management came as Walmart continues to struggle with weak same-store sales. Analysts believe its core lower-income customers are spending less or spending elsewhere, ostensibly at dollar stores and other cut-rate discounters, while higher-income consumers who shopped Walmart during the depths of the recession are returning to trade-up channels as the economy slowly stabilizes.


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