Mike Duke, the newly installed president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., is prepared to seize the moment.
With Wal-Mart in the midst of a major changeover to make itself more appealing to a broader mix of middle-class shoppers both during the recession and once it’s over, Duke is poised to preside over a series of initiatives that could reinvigorate the company for the next quarter-century just as previous initiatives positioned it as an industry powerhouse during the last quarter-century.
Speaking to shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in early June, Duke said the weakened economy provides a perfect opportunity for Wal-Mart to make further strides to grow its business.
“This is not a time to slow down,” he declared. “This is not a time to take comfort in our success. This is Wal-Mart’s time to look to the future and seize the opportunity to truly lead around the world.”
Duke, 59, was named president and CEO in February. He joined Wal-Mart in 1995 — after 23 years with Federated and May department stores — to oversee the logistics, distribution and administrative divisions of the company’s U.S. operations.
“Duke will certainly continue to be extraordinarily active in utilizing best practices from Wal-Mart international across all of its U.S. stores,” Bryan Roberts, global research director for London-based Planet Retail, said. “The influence of the [London-based] Asda stores is already evident at supercenters in Canada, remodeled units in Texas and particularly at the new Marketside format in terms of presentation of chilled, convenience and fresh foods, along with store design and graphics.”
Patricia Edwards, an analyst with Storehouse Partners, Seattle, said Duke’s influence is likely to go beyond the company’s food operations. “He’s a big-picture thinker, and the company has been talking about how much more it’s sharing ideas from the U.S. and from Mexico with other regions,” she said.