Wal-Mart Executive Who Described Sales ‘Disaster’ Leaves

The Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive who called the retailer’s February sales a “total disaster” in an internal e-mail obtained and reported by Bloomberg News has left the company.

Jerry Murray, a vice president of finance and logistics, left April 5 after working for the company for seven years, David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said in an e-mail today. Murray’s departure was “his decision,” Tovar said in a telephone interview yesterday. The company hasn’t announced a replacement, he said.

Murray, who was based at Wal-Mart’s Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters, declined to comment.

His departure comes as customers and store workers say the company is struggling to keep shelves full. The stocking challenges have coincided with a decline in the retailer’s U.S. workforce even as Wal-Mart has added hundreds of new stores. The world’s largest retailer has 1.3 million workers, down by about 120,000 employees since 2008, according to regulatory filings.

Murray’s departure “had nothing to do with” shelf-stocking issues, Tovar said.

“In case you haven’t seen a sales report these days, February MTD sales are a total disaster,” Murray wrote in the Feb. 12 e-mail to other executives, referring to month-to-date sales. “The worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

At the time, Tovar said the e-mails were “not entirely accurate” and lacked context.

The next week, Wal-Mart reported results for the quarter ended Jan. 31 and forecast same-store sales that were less than some analysts estimated. Same-store sales for U.S. locations in the 13 weeks ending April 26 will be little changed, Bill Simon, Wal-Mart’s U.S. chief, said on the earnings call.

The shares fell 1 percent to $77.37 at the close in New York. Wal-Mart has gained 29 percent in the past 12 months compared with a 17 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

(Updates with closing share price in last paragraph)
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