Wal-Mart's chief merchant leaves in management shakeup on eve of big holiday season



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NEW YORK — Wal-Mart's chief merchandising officer for its namesake U.S. division has left as the discounter makes leadership changes to perk up sales as the holiday shopping season revs up.

According to a memo provided to the media, Duncan Mac Naughton decided to leave to "pursue new opportunities" effective Tuesday.

According to the memo from Greg Foran, CEO of Wal-Mart's U.S. business since August, the company will not name a replacement immediately. The heads of each of the merchandise categories will report directly to Foran.

"I would like to use this opportunity to get closer to the merchandising organization," Foran wrote.

Foran, who had been CEO and president of Wal-Mart's Asia business, told investors in October that he was conducting a major review of the U.S. Wal-Mart business. The company will update investors on its plans early next year.

Mac Naughton is leaving two days ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend sales bonanza.

Among other leadership changes, Steve Bratspies will move from his role as executive vice president of general merchandise to executive vice president of food, which includes a strong focus on the fresh category. Jack Sinclair, who had been head of the food category, will be taking another role within Wal-Mart to be announced later.

Wal-Mart's U.S business posted a slim 0.5 percent increase in revenue at stores open at least a year in its fiscal third quarter. That was its first increase in seven quarters.

Its U.S. business has been hurt as its low-income shoppers are still not benefiting from a slowly recovering economy. But the business has also been tripped up by its own mistakes. It has had problems with its fresh produce. Shoppers have complained about empty shelves because it doesn't have enough workers to unpack boxes of items that were in the backrooms.

For the holiday shopping season, Wal-Mart is speeding up checkout lines. Wal-Mart said it's opening more cash registers than ever this holiday shopping season. It is adding hours for employees to do more stocking work, and it is focusing on getting better with its prices.

Longer term, it is scaling back its expansion plans for its supercenters next year and stepping up investments in its online operations.

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