Former Target Corporation (TGT) merchandising chief and current Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) merchandising chief John Fleming will be leaving the world's largest retailer come August. The retailing veteran succumbed to four straight quarters of declining same-store sales, and made the personal decision to leave the company. In all fairness, would any merchandising chief had fared any better through the recent economic recession, even as Walmart fared well among all retailers?
Fleming's duties will be replaced by Walmart grocery and procurement professionals until a permanent replacement is found. After having witnessed how Fleming brought out the best at Target stores in the face of the ferocious Walmart years a decade ago, it's a mistake to blame Walmart's merchandising woes on him. In other words, is there anyone who can transform Wal-Mart's boring, big boxes into anything as bright as a Target store? Walmart has made strides recently, but it's not radically different in terms of merchandising. Maybe that was the problem.
Walmart is seemingly indestructible, but if the company wants to transform its lackluster share price -- sitting at just under $49 today -- the company needs to have bold re-shift of its merchandising strategy (way more than product presentation) and give the right executive the power to shuffle the deck a bit. That's a tall order given the stinginess of the U.S. consumer in 2009 leading into 2010, but that's when big things happen -- when no other competitor is looking.