Walmart’s US chief merchandising officer steps down, amid tough year

Apr 16, 2023, 9:00 PM

FILE (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)...

FILE (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Walmart’s chief merchandising officer for its US operations is stepping down from the job as the retailer faces a tougher year ahead, an internal memo shared to US associates Friday said.

Charles Redfield, whose career at Walmart spanned 32 years, will transition on May 1 and remain in an advisory role. In a memo viewed by CNN Business, Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner said Redfield wants to spend more time with his family.

Redfield held his position at the retailer for a little more than a year, beginning in January 2022.

The leadership shakeup comes after America’s largest retailer warned it is facing a more challenging year ahead and will approach 2023 with caution.

Despite a strong holiday season, Walmart forecast slower sales and profit growth in February. Its strong holiday sales were fueled by groceries. Grocery prices rose 11.8% annually in December, pushing customers toward more affordable options.

However, sales were slower for traditional holiday products like toys, electronics and clothing — a sign that consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending.

Walmart did see an 8.3% sales increase during its latest quarter ended January 31 at US stores open for at least one year. More customers are buying its private label brands and more higher-income households are shopping at its stores, the company said.

“The consumer is still very pressured,” Walmart CFO John Rainey told CNBC. “And if you look at economic indicators, balance sheets are running thinner and savings rates are declining relative to previous periods. And so that’s why we take a pretty cautious outlook on the rest of the year.”

The retail industry in general is expected to face challenges this year after sluggish holiday sales.

Redfield is a Walmart veteran. He began his career as a Sam’s Club cashier while attending the University of Arkansas. He became assistant manager with Sam’s Club and worked his way up the ladder.

“There are merchants, and then there’s our Chief Merchandising Officer Charles Redfield,” CEO John Furner said in a memo viewed by CNN Business. “I could probably stop there and many associates across our businesses and the retail industry would know exactly what I mean.”

Redfield became CMO for Asda, Walmart’s UK subsidiary, in 2010. In 2012, he was named executive vice president of merchandising for Sam’s Club and named executive vice president of food for Walmart U.S. in 2015.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the departure.

Furner said the company will be announcing a new CMO soon.

This week, Walmart said it was selling its trendy menswear brand, Bonobos, at a steep loss, to management firm WHP Global and retailer Express Inc. for $75 million. Walmart acquired the brand in 2017 for $310 million.

In a note, Neil Saunders, managing director of consultancy GlobalData, wrote that discounted price for Bonobos “reflects the current weaker outlook across retail, but some is also the result of Walmart not having done much to develop the brand over the past six years.”

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Walmart’s US chief merchandising officer steps down, amid tough year