Wal-Mart Moves CMO Fleming to Merchandising Post

By Jan 25, 2007

Wal-Mart’s CMO John Fleming has a new job.

He has been named chief merchandising officer as part of a new merchandising strategy that matches brands to specific areas of the store, and to shopper segments. He had been chief marketing officer for nearly two years.

Stephen Quinn replaces Fleming as executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He had been senior vice president of marketing since joining Wal-Mart in 2005. Earlier, he was chief marketing officer at Frito-Lay.

It was Fleming who picked up the pieces in October after the abrupt dismissal of marketing leader Julie Roehm and her agency of choice, DraftFCB. Fleming led the re-opened review that chose The Martin Agency to replace DraftFCB on Wal-Mart’s $750 million marketing account. First work from The Martin Agency is slated to break this summer.

Wal-Mart said it will tailor stores’ merchandising mix to suit specific shopper groups that it identified in its research last year. The new strategy is the second step in the company’s three-year plan, begun last year, to boost sales and profit. A big piece of that plan is to woo more upscale shoppers. Wal-Mart has been bringing in more high-end brands for several months, and last year began an image ad campaign that met with mixed reviews.

“As we enter year two, our focus will extend to merchandise assortment and marketing execution on the findings we identified in our customer research,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores U. S., in a statement.

The plan involves five divisions, four of which report to Fleming: grocery, entertainment, apparel and home. The fifth, pharmacy and optical, continues to be overseen by Bill Simon, executive vice president of professional services and new business development.

Wal-Mart has also formed two new marketing divisions under Fleming, one that addresses the customer experience and the other that tackles planning, pricing and replenishment.

Claire Watts, who had been executive vice president of merchandising, now leads apparel merchandising and reports to Fleming.

As part of the staff shift, Doug Degn will retire as executive vice president of food, consumables and hardlines. A 24-year Wal-Mart veteran, he remains on staff for several months to help transition to the new merchandising structure. All other personnel shifts are effective immediately, a Wal-Mart spokesperson said.

Fleming is a rising star at Wal-Mart. He is credited with building Walmart.com into one of the top three online retailers, and won a big vote of confidence when he stepped in to mop up in the wake of Roehm. Earlier this month, Wal-Mart handed its business to The Martin Agency for creative, and Starcom MediaVest for media planning and buying (PROMO Xtra, Jan. 17, 2006). Three smaller shops will handle ethnic marketing.

Fleming cut his teeth in retailing at Target Corp., where he spent 19 years in the department stores division working for Marshall Field’s and Dayton Hudson in several marketing posts, including senior vice president of merchandising for fashion.

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