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Walmart Names New U.S. Chief Merchandising Officer

by News Desk

Moving fast to fill a critical role, Walmart Inc. last week appointed Latriece Watkins its U.S. chief merchandising officer, succeeding Charles Redfield, who stepped down from the role last month but is continuing in an advisory capacity to the retail giant’s U.S. business.

According to the Walmart website, Watkins joined the company 24 years ago and was most recently the executive vice president of the Walmart U.S. consumables division. When Redfield’s departure was disclosed last month, WWD singled out Watkins as a potential successor. Watkins’ promotion is not surprising considering Walmart historically elevates people within its organization, cross-pollinating executives to prepare them for bigger roles.

In her new role, Watkins will oversee all of Walmart’s merchandising operations, giving her a significant say in what a large portion of U.S. consumers wear, eat and use in their lives. Watkins enters a challenging role considering the millions of consumers who shop Walmart are feeling financially constrained by the nation’s high inflation, though the rate of inflation has been easing in recent months. Consumer spending power has been reduced by persistently high inflation, hurting Walmart’s business and leading the company to adopt a cautious stance on 2023. Walmart has projected its revenues would rise by 2.5 to 3 percent in the coming year, representing a big step back from the 6 percent average of the past five years and growth last year of 6.7 percent, to $611.3 billion in revenues.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news about Watkins’ appointment. According to the report, Walmart U.S. chief executive officer John Furner told employees about Watkins’ new role and said in a memo, “We have a rich history of strong leaders who embrace this constant change, set bold visions for our teams and best represent the humanity that is Walmart.”

Walmart indicates in its bio on Watkins that she joined the company as an intern in real estate, served in a variety of leadership roles at Sam’s Club, Walmart U.S. merchandising, human resources and U.S. store operations. In her two decades with the retailer, she has led several important portfolio and strategic initiatives across the company. She’s considered an executive with a wide range of skills and experience.

In two other big retail job vacancies, Bloomingdale’s is seeking a CEO to succeed Tony Spring, who has become president and CEO-elect of Macy’s Inc. He will succeed current CEO Jeff Gennette in February 2024. Also, Gap Inc. is seeking a new CEO to succeed Sonia Syngal, who left the business in July 2022. Bob Martin, executive chairman of the board, is serving as interim Gap Inc. CEO.

Walmart expects to add more than $130 billion in sales to the company’s top line over the next five years. 

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