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    Wal-Mart Shifts Top Marketing, Merchandising Execs

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. said yesterday it is reorganizing its U. S. marketing and merchandising areas to align its merchants with key product areas. The move is in preparation for its next phase of a three-year plan to increase sales and profitability.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. said yesterday it is reorganizing its U. S. marketing and merchandising areas to align its merchants with key product areas. The move is in preparation for its next phase of a three-year plan to increase sales and profitability.

    Retailing veteran John Fleming, who had been the company's chief marketing officer for almost two years, will now become chief merchandising officer.

    The company's merchandise initiatives will be focused on five divisions. Four of these -- grocery, entertainment, apparel, and home -- will report to Fleming. He will also have responsibility for two newly created organizations, one focused on the customer experience and the other on planning, pricing, and replenishment.

    The fifth division -- pharmacy and optical -- will continue reporting to Bill Simon, e.v.p. of professional services and new business development. Simon reports to Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and c.e.o. of Wal-Mart Stores U. S.

    Last year Castro-Wright outlined to investors a three-year plan to increase the company's sales and profitability. Much of that plan focused on becoming more relevant to the company's diverse customer segments. The company began by conducting extensive research last year to determine what mattered most to its customers, and also implemented a field organizational structure to facilitate execution of the new merchandising initiatives.

    "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 Castro-Wright in a statement. "I have a lot of confidence in the talent now charged with moving the company to the next level."

    Before heading up the Wal-Mart Stores U. S. marketing operation, Fleming grew Walmart.com into one of the country's top three destinations for online shopping. Earlier, he spent 19 years with the department stores division of Target Corp. There he held a variety of positions, including s.v.p. of merchandising for the fashion divisions.

    In other merchandise changes, Doug Degn, e.v.p. of food, consumables, and hardlines, has decided to retire. He will stay on for several months to help in the transition of the new merchandise organization. Degn began his 24 years with Wal-Mart as a store pharmacist, and went on to lead the company's merchandise efforts in consumables, food, electronics, and other categories.

    Claire Watts, e.v.p. of merchandising, will now lead the apparel merchandising area, reporting to Fleming.

    Stephen Quinn is being promoted to e.v.p. and chief marketing officer, replacing Fleming. Quinn joined the company in 2005 as s.v.p. of marketing. Before coming to Wal-Mart he spent 13 years with the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo, Inc., most recently as chief marketing officer. Prior to that, he held consumer marketing positions at Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Quaker Oats. Quinn will report to Castro-Wright.

    Carter Cast, president and c.e.o. of Walmart.com, will now also report to Castro-Wright.

    The news is the latest in a series of high-level executive changes at Wal-Mart. In December the company let go of Julie Roehm, its s.v.p. of marketing communications. Weeks later, the marketing chief of its Sam's Club warehouse club division resigned after just 14 months in the position, and earlier this month Wal-Mart's head of global procurement resigned.

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