Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) today named two managers to its China team as the retailer steps up efforts to overhaul its flagging business in the Asian nation.
Adrian Blake will join as senior vice president of business development for Wal–Mart China, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg News. Rob Bray, currently senior vice president of real estate design, construction and store planning for Wal-Mart U.S., will become senior vice president of real estate in China, the company said.
The world’s largest retailer announced this week plans to close more than 20 underperforming stores in China in the next year -- representing about 2.5 percent of its total sales volume there -- as part of a restructuring. The stores slated to close didn’t have ideal locations and layouts, Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart’s international chief executive officer, told analysts Oct. 15.
The retailer continues to add new stores in China even as it shutters less profitable ones. The retailer has said it plans to open more than 100 new stores in the next three years in China. While Wal-Mart China’s net sales excluding an online grocer business rose 6.3 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, customer traffic declined 6.8 percent, according to a transcript of the company’s earnings call in August.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, faces stiff competition in China from such regional rivals as Sun Art Retail Group Ltd. (6808) and China Resources Enterprise Ltd. (291), which have tailored promotions and shopping experiences to Chinese tastes. Sun Art is China’s largest hypermarket operator, with a 14 percent share of the industry last year, according to Euromonitor International. Wal-Mart and China Resources are tied for second place with an 11 percent share each in 2012.
“These organizational changes support our overall strategy of active portfolio management and disciplined and strategic growth for China,” Kevin Gardner, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said today in an e-mailed statement.
Before joining Wal-Mart, Blake was a consultant specializing in property and construction, according to the memo. He and Bray will report to Greg Foran, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart China.
Filling Bray’s current role will be JP Suarez, who now is senior vice president of real estate strategy and process improvement for Wal-Mart U.S., according to the memo.
“Aligning this way allows for additional collaboration as we continue to transform our processes and align our resources to build stores with greater speed and efficiency,” Wal-Mart said in the memo.
Wal-Mart fell 0.1 percent to $75.71 at the close in New York. The shares have risen 11 percent this year, compared with a 22 percent advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
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