Brewer, who will also be president of Sam’s Club, was previously president of the retailer’s U.S. division. She will report to CEO Mike Duke. The moves are effective Feb. 1. Wal-Mart has in recent years has been battered by a combination of the slow-growing economy and its own decisions that caused U.S. customers to flee to competitors.
But it has refocused on offering the lowest prices and shoppers’ favorite goods and that strategy has been paying off. In its third fiscal quarter ended Oct. 28, its net income fell 2.9 percent but it reversed a slump in U.S. namesake business.
Its Sam’s Club warehouse club business has outperformed its namesake stores. Revenue in stores open at least one year rose 5.7 percent at Sam’s Club and 1.3 percent at Walmart U.S. stores in its third quarter. The measure is a key gauge of a retailer’s financial health.
EIGHT months ago Walmart, an American retailer, aired plans to buy 51% of Massmart, a South African one. On May 31st South Africa’s Competition Tribunal gave it the go-ahead. Doug McMillon, the boss of Walmart International, says the 16.5 billion rand ($2.4 billion) deal will be completed within “a few weeks”.
Despite furious opposition from unions, the conditions were less onerous than the retailers had feared. They include a two-year ban on lay-offs and the creation of a 100m-rand fund to nurture local suppliers—concessions that had already been agreed to. They also include abiding by all existing labour agreements and continuing to recognise the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union as the firm’s main bargaining partner for at least three years.
Walmart plans to use Massmart, which has stores in 14 African countries, as a stepping-stone into a fast-emerging continent. But its first target is South Africa, the region’s biggest and most developed market. It says it will buy most of its fresh food locally, which is hardly surprising given that South Africa has big, efficient farms and is far from anywhere similarly blessed. It also pledges to open dozens of new stores and create “thousands of new union jobs”.
Unions fret that Walmart will bypass local suppliers and buy cheap goods from abroad. The tribunal did nothing to prevent this. (Local quotas would probably have broken World Trade Organisation rules.) Cosatu, the biggest South African union federation, is still threatening “mass action” if its concerns are not met by the end of June. But cash-strapped shoppers are happy. And so are South African businesspeople. Their country seems a little more welcoming, and its institutions a little more independent, than anyone thought last week.