Wal-Mart’s U.S. Merchandising Chief Fleming to Leave

John Fleming
John Fleming, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart Stores US, listens to a question during the Women's Wear Daily Apparel/Retail CEO Summit in New York. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s U.S. merchandising chief will leave the world’s largest retailer after a plan to remove some products from stores contributed to a decline in sales.

John Fleming will depart on Aug. 1, Wal-Mart said today in a regulatory filing. Until a replacement is named, Wal-Mart gave additional duties to Jack Sinclair, head of the U.S. grocery unit, and John Westling, executive vice president of planning, pricing and replenishment, U.S. Chief Executive Officer William Simon told employees in a memo today.

Fleming, an executive vice president, made a “personal decision” to depart, Simon said in the memo. Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year have fallen for four straight quarters, hurt by the removal of grocery and household items. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is returning some items and cutting prices to draw shoppers.

Simon took charge of U.S. stores, Wal-Mart’s largest unit, from Eduardo Castro-Wright on June 29. Castro-Wright was reassigned to California, where his wife is recovering from surgery.

Fleming, 51, wasn’t available for an interview, said David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman.

“John’s been thinking about how he could spend more time with his family,” Tovar said in a telephone interview. “The changes announced earlier this week presented him with an opportunity and he decided it was the right time for him to leave the company.”

Fleming joined Wal-Mart in 2001 after serving as senior vice president of merchandising for Target Corp.’s department store division. He had worked 19 years for the Minneapolis-based retailer.

Wal-Mart fell 34 cents to $48 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have declined 10 percent this year.