Chief Merchant Exits Walmart

Image: Noah Berger for The New York Times

John Fleming, the chief merchandising officer of Walmart has resigned. His resignation was announced in a memo to employees from Bill Simon, who was named president and chief executive officer of Walmart this past week. He was the architect of the retailers recent remerchandising strategy “Win Play Show” and a former Target executive. He had been with Walmart a little more than 10 years, the last five as its CMO. His remerchandising strategy and SKU rationalization was at the heart of the Project Impact initiative

According to the memo Fleming “made a personal decision to leave the company.”

According to a Wall Street Journal article on the subject:

Fleming spent 10 years with Wal-Mart and played a notable role in overseeing product selection and relationships with vendors at the company, which had more than $400 billion in sales last year. He is leaving Aug. 1 for what Wal-Mart said are personal reasons.

Fleming, who joined the company in 2000 as chief merchant of, had a rocky track record, including a failed attempt to take the Wal-Mart’s brand upscale in 2005, said Deborah Weinswig, retail analyst at Citigroup.

Fleming’s departure gives newly appointed Chief Executive Bill Simon “the opportunity to set a new course for Wal-Mart’s merchandising organization, which, in turn, could lead to improvement in apparel and home,” Weinswig said.

Jack Sinclair, executive vice president and general manager of grocery, will lead food and health and wellness merchandising, Simon said, while John Westling will lead general merchandise merchandising while the company searches for a replacement for Fleming.

With this latest change in the worlds the mega retailers ranks it will be interesting to discover both the short-term and long-term impact on their Private Brand initiatives.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.