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Walmart Eyes Ex-Target Marketer For CMO Roll

Walmart’s CMO is leaving, and the big box retailer is looking to fill the role with someone from the other side of the aisle.

In retail terms, that’s Target — Walmart’s top physical retailer competitor (if we’re not counting Amazon). Stephen Quinn is retiring at the end of Walmart’s fiscal year, the company confirmed yesterday (Dec. 10). Quinn has been in the role since 2007.

Replacing him will be Michael Francis, who, according to The Wall Street Journalworked for Target for the past three decades. Francis is most known for his marketing expertise and his role of bringing the “cheap-chic” look to Target’s brand that’s helped it grow. Francis is being brought in to overhaul Walmart’s marketing efforts to keep up with the changing retail times, a source told WSJ.

He will start in the role on Jan. 1, but has not provided many details on his role other than to say in a statement: “I’m committed to building on the strength of that brand, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.”

What’s interesting about this hire is it specifically looks to be someone who knows the tricks of the trade and who has inside knowledge of Walmart’s top big box competitor. A former Target executive told WSJ: “If I was still working at Target, my heart would just sink.”

Outside of Target, Francis has had roles at JCPenney, where he served as president under former CEO Ron Johnson. He left that role after eight months during a tough time for the retailer. He’s also advised at Gap and worked at DreamWorks.

The shakeup of the executive team comes at a transition time for Walmart where more and more attention is being placed on its digital side as the shape of retail and physical stores are changing. Walmart has invested heavily in its eCommerce side and making its stores slimmer and more efficient to build on its omnichannel offerings.

Last quarter, Walmart posted a slight sales boost but failed to meet expectations. That caused Walmart to adjust its guidance for the rest of the year in order to match expectations. While Walmart’s forecast may have come down, the retailer managed to hit on the points it needed to and posted better-than-expected earnings.

The real sweet spot for Walmart this quarter has been its store overhaul focus but also its attention toward its digital products. And, once again, eCommerce also continued to be another strong focus for Walmart as online sales and GMV increased roughly 10 percent on the quarter. Despite the efforts put into building eCommerce, online sales are not as strong as the retailer wants.

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