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More merchandising changes at Wal-Mart


BENTONVILLE, Ark. Change keeps coming for Wal-Mart’s merchandising organization with the most recent move involving Claire Watts, the evp of merchandising responsible for the retailer’s apparel efforts.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Sarah Clark confirmed that Watt’s had resigned to pursue other career interests and stepping in to handle a portion of her responsibilities would be Dottie Mattison, who was named senior vp, gmm of women’s apparel. She also will be responsible for women’s jewelry, shoes and accessories as well as product development operations at Wal-Mart’s New York office. Mattison is a newcomer to Wal-Mart, who joined the company’s online unit last March after 12 years with Gap Inc. and most recently served as chief merchant for

In her new role, Mattison will report directly to chief merchandising officer John Fleming. Also reporting directly to Fleming as a result of Watt’s resignation is vp, gmm Mark Larsen, who has responsibility for categories such as men’s, kid’s and baby, and previously reported to Watts.

In a related move, Karen Stucky was named senior vp of product development, strategic sourcing and product quality for the home category. She will report to Linda Hefner who joined Wal-Mart two months ago as evp of merchandising over the home category. She resigned from an executive role at Kraft last year. Stuckey joined Wal-Mart in 2004 as senior vp of product development and previously reported to Watts.

Another recent change in the merchandising group involved the resignation last week of Doug Howe, who served as senior vp of product and trend development and left for a similar position with Old Navy.

These most recent changes come as Wal-Mart wrestles with improving sales results for its apparel and home categories, both of which have been cited as a source of weakness for the past year when senior executives release quarterly sales results or hold meetings with financial analysts. The changes also follow a major shakeup of the merchandising organization that took place earlier this year under the supervision of Fleming, who had been shifted to the head merchant role in January after serving nearly two years as Wal-Mart’s chief marketing officer. That change was seen as a precursor to the elimination of the company’s dual head merchant structure that came into existence in 2003 when Wal-Mart divided merchandising responsibilities for hardlines and softlines between Doug Degn, who served as evp of food, consumables and hardlines, and Claire Watts, who served as evp of product development, apparel and home merchandising.

However, with Fleming’s appointment as chief merchandising officer, Degn announced his plans to resign after a career that began in 1983 and Watts, who joined Wal-Mart in 1997, saw her responsibilities diminished as she no longer had oversight of the home area.

Another key merchandising move that took place earlier this year involved the resignation of Lawrence Jackson, the short-lived president and ceo of Wal-Mart’s global procurement operation. Jackson was replaced by Jeff Macho who was named senior vp of global procurement to be based out of Wal-Mart Chinese headquarters in Shenzhen as opposed to Bentonville where Jackson was based.

These have been turbulent times for the senior executive ranks at Wal-Mart, but the resignation of Watts would appear to complete the overhaul of the merchandising group that began earlier this year. With Degn and Watts gone, the transition to a single head merchant has been completed and Fleming has a decision-making structure in place of his creation intended to bring greater consistency to the Wal-Mart shopping experience.

The new structure involves five pillar categories, four of which are overseen by Fleming including grocery, entertainment, apparel and home.

The grocery division is led by senior vp, gmm Pam Kohn. She replaced Bruce Peterson who resigned earlier this year. The entertainment division is led by Gary Severson, a 13-year Wal-Mart veteran who spent the past four years as senior vp, gmm over electronics.

The newly promoted Mattison and Larson share responsibilities in the apparel area and the newly hired Hefner oversees home.

The pharmacy and optical group report to Bill Simon, who earlier this year was named coo of the U.S. stores division after previously serving as evp of professional services and new business development. Paul Beahm, who had served for a short time as senior vp, gmm of the home business and reported to Watts, was shifted back to the pharmacy and health area where he spent the bulk of his career. Beahm was named senior vp, gmm of pharmacy merchandising with responsibility for over-the-counter categories and third party contract administration.

In addition to the realignment of merchandising responsibilities, Fleming also created two new divisions related to merchandising operations and store experience. Veteran merchant John Westling, who most recently served as senior vp, gmm of consumables was tapped to lead a new division focused on replenishment, planning and pricing. In his new role, Westling replaced Gary Maxwell who previously oversaw replenishment. Maxwell moves to Wal-Mart International as senior vp of global supply chain.

Anew division called customer experience will continue to be led by Santiago Roces who was appointed to that role last fall after previously serving as president of Wal-Mart Korea.

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