Sam's Club CEO Brewer to step down

Dive Brief:

  • Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer will retire effective Feb. 1, the warehouse chain’s parent company Wal-Mart Stores said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • A 22-year veteran of personal care corporation Kimberly-Clark, Brewer joined Wal-Mart in 2006 as regional vice president, eventually rising to the position of president of Wal-Mart East before taking the helm at Sam’s Club in 2012.
  • Sam’s Club has appointed John Furner to replace Brewer as CEO. Furner most recently served as the company’s executive vice president of merchandising.

Dive Insight:

Wal-Mart’s extreme makeover continues. While the world’s largest retailer has in recent months taken a series of steps to boost its e-commerce fortunes and compete more effectively with digital kingpin Amazon, most notably by acquiring online commerce upstart Jet for $3.3 billion, it’s also made moves to make over its brick-and-mortar stores. Now the company is setting its sights on reviving its warehouse club business.  

Sam’s Club has been chasing warehouse archrival Costco for years, but has never been able to achieve Costco’s sales or membership levels, attract its wealthier customer base or match its reputation for quality merchandise and good service.

“Costco is, in its own way, as unstoppable as Amazon,” Columbia University retail studies professor Mark Cohen wrote in Forbes last year. "Their stores throughout the world are among the most productive in the industry. And unlike most brick-and-mortar based retail businesses, seemingly untouched by customers’ stampede-like migration to the internet.”

Time will tell if Furner can do what Brewer could not. In his current role, Furner oversees all of merchandising for Sam’s Club including global sourcing, packaging and private brands. He previously served as chief merchandising and chief marketing officer of Walmart China, where he led merchandising, procurement, marketing, supply chain, financial services and mobile commerce for the company’s hypermarket division — roles that suggest he could help diversify Sam’s Club’s merchandising ambitions and make the company a bigger player in mobile.

Brewer’s tenure at the top is by no means a failure, however. Recent highlights include the September launch of next-day delivery of office supplies in the Dallas, Tulsa and Miami markets, and surveys have found that a significant portion of Sam’s Club members are very small businesses owned by women who often shell out their own personal funds for supplies. 

As of September, all 645 U.S. Sam’s Club stores support scan-and-go mobile checkout service. While in the store, a shopper scans each item's barcode through an application downloaded to an iPhone or Android phone; the app keeps a running tally of the items in the cart, and offers checkout and payment capabilities. Shoppers show the receipt on their phone to a Sam's Club employee as they leave, similar to the process with physical receipts, to prove they’ve paid for all of their items.

In June, Sam's Club also turned to the Salesforce Sales Cloud platform to migrate many of its business membership functions from manual, paper-based processes to a more flexible, automated digital model that it says will improve productivity of the store's membership teams and enable more integration between physical and digital shopping experiences.

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Filed Under: Corporate News
Top image credit: Flickr; Mike Mozart