Global Ecommerce Expansion Said to Bedevil Wal-Mart

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — The pending retirement of Eduardo Castro-Wright from Wal-Mart Stores here may be the result of a disappointing start outside the U.S. to the company’s ecommerce initiatives, industry sources told SN last week.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — The pending retirement of Eduardo Castro-Wright from Wal-Mart Stores [3] here may be the result of a disappointing start outside the U.S. to the company’s ecommerce initiatives, industry sources told SN.

Castro-Wright, 56, is vice chairman of the company and chief executive officer of its global ecommerce and global sourcing businesses. He also ran Wal-Mart’s U.S. operations from 2005 until August 2010.

Wal-Mart said it will name new leadership to succeed him by the end of January, after which Castro-Wright will assist in the transition until he retires on July 1.

According to Dave Marcotte, director of retail insights for Kantar Retail, Cambridge, Mass., “Internet sales outside the U.S. have not met expectations — particularly in places like Canada and Mexico.

“There’s also been friction within the ecommerce group as Wal-Mart has shifted responsibility for ecommerce from the corporate level to the regions — a move that has prompted several people in the group to find jobs at other Silicon Valley companies.”

Wal-Mart’s ecommerce operations have been centered in San Francisco — close to Silicon Valley in Northern California — to accommodate Castro-Wright’s desire to be close to his family in California, Marcotte said. “Retirement may have seemed like his best option because moving to another position in the company would have meant he’d have to move out of California,” he pointed out.

Marcotte acknowledged industry speculation that Castro-Wright might have been pushed out because of the underperformance of the U.S. stores during his watch, “but the U.S. stores have been doing worse since he left that position,” he noted.

Gary Giblen, managing director for Aegis Capital, New York, said Castro-Wright might not be retiring “if Wal-Mart was doing better.”

“But he’d rather go out on his own terms in a slightly favorable way. His effectiveness within Wal-Mart has been compromised because he’s been held accountable for Wal-Mart’s poor results in the past.

“I don’t think he’s being pushed out, but it’s truly his decision to leave on as positive a note as possible in terms of his legacy.

“The real test of whether he’s leaving Wal-Mart to actually retire will be to see if he stays in retail and takes another fulltime job.”

On the heels of Castro-Wright’s retirement came last week’s announcement that Wan Ling Martello, executive vice president of global ecommerce for emerging markets, plans to leave Wal-Mart next spring to become chief financial officer at Nestlé.

Wal-Mart also confirmed that in August, Raul Vazquez, who worked in ecommerce, and Steve Nave, who worked for Walmart.com, announced they were leaving the company.

Castro-Wright joined Wal-Mart in 2001 as president and chief operating officer of Walmart Mexico, and later ran the U.S. business as CEO.

Broader CEO of Canada

Separately, Wal-Mart also said it has named Delhaize veteran Shelley Broader president and CEO of Walmart Canada, succeeding David Cheesewright.

Broader, who has been chief merchandising officer for the division, spent 17 years with Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, and with its Tampa, Fla.-based Kash n’ Karry division, overseeing its conversion to Sweetbay and ultimately becoming that chain’s president and CEO.

She left Sweetbay in mid-2008 to become president and chief operating officer of Michaels Stores, Irving, Texas, and joined Walmart in 2009 as senior vice president, Sam’s Clubs, before moving to Walmart Canada last December.

Cheesewright was named president and CEO of a new Wal-Mart group overseeing retail operations in Canada, the United Kingdom and Sub-Saharan Africa, and business development in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Canada.

Cheesewright has been president and CEO of Walmart Canada since 2008. He previously was with Asda, Wal-Mart’s U.K. chain.