Will Sam’s Club CEO lead Walmart’s U.S. business to greater success?

Discussion
Greg Foran | John Furner - Photos: Walmart
Oct 11, 2019

Walmart announced yesterday that Greg Foran, president and CEO of its U.S. business, is leaving the company and will be replaced by John Furner, who has been the top executive at Sam’s Club since 2017. 

Mr. Foran, who replaced Bill Simon in 2014 after Walmart posted same-store sales declines for five consecutive quarters, has been credited with leading the chain’s turnaround in recent years having made changes to improve the supply chain and reduce out-of-stocks. He has also worked with Walmart’s e-commerce team led by Marc Lore to advance the company’s omnichannel effectiveness. Following his exit from Walmart, Mr. Foran will become CEO at Air New Zealand Limited.

Mr. Furner, who began his career with Walmart as an hourly associate in 1993, has worked in a variety of store and corporate positions. He was chief merchandising officer at Sam’s before being named CEO. He has led a reset at Sam’s focused on expanding the chain’s digital capabilities. Last year, Mr. Furner announced plans to close 63 clubs to the public and repurpose many of them as distribution centers for online orders.

“He has the experience and judgment to know what we should continue doing and what we should change,” said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon of Mr. Furner. “He embraces technology and new ways of working, and he keeps our customers and Sam’s Club members at the center of everything we do, while delivering results for the business.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you expect to stay the same and change at Walmart U.S. under the leadership of John Furner? What do you see as Mr. Furner’s greatest challenges in plotting a success track for Walmart U.S.?

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Braintrust
"When a top executive has gone through the ranks, they have a better understanding of what takes place in the lower levels, what works and what does not."
"It’s not a bad message to send as Walmart promotes career advancement opportunities for its associates."
"Retail remains one career path that regardless of social background or education — if you have the chops, you can climb the ladder."

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7 Comments on "Will Sam’s Club CEO lead Walmart’s U.S. business to greater success?"


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Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust
Carol Spieckerman
President, Spieckerman Retail
2 years 9 months ago

Furner’s ascent affirms Walmart’s preference for seasoned corporate loyalists. His career has been cast in the come-through-the-ranks mold that defined Doug McMillon’s career. It’s not a bad message to send as Walmart promotes career advancement opportunities for its associates. That’s not to say that Walmart hasn’t balanced that strategy and broken the mold by placing outsiders like Marc Lore in top roles. There are just so many top slots. Foran’s block-and-tackle strategies and focus on clearing unforced errors provided a counterbalance to Walmart’s digital forays, acquisitions and experiments. As Walmart pulls back somewhat on the latter, it will be interesting to watch where things go from here.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Walmart’s results have been impressive and so has their pursuit of technology and innovation – I expect this to continue under Mr. Furner. The greatest challenges Mr. Furner faces will be to build on and advance an organization with the size and success of Walmart – and continue to battle against Amazon at the same time. He also has the benefit of a deep and capable team of leaders and managers to help drive the business forward. I also think that Furner’s history within the organization, starting as an hourly associate and working his way up, gives him a unique perspective on all aspects of the business. Congratulations Mr. Furner and good luck. You have big shoes to fill.

Art Suriano
Guest
One thing that has changed in the business world today is the length of executives keeping jobs. Many of them jump ship after only a few years, especially when they have had some success they can boast about for their next job. Mr. Foran has had tremendous success at Walmart and, after only five years, he is leaving. This concept seems to be the new norm. The problem with that is that it usually takes at least two years to learn the business, another year to try new ideas, another year to see results, so five years is not a long time at the helm. What I like about John Furner is his long relationship working for Walmart and working his way up to the top. Today that is very rare. When a top executive has gone through the ranks, they have a better understanding of what takes place in the lower levels, what works and what does not. I see Mr. Furner having great success. I commend Greg Foran for the success he had,… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

John Furner has a long history with Walmart. Some might argue that Walmart should be looking for an individual with a non-Walmart pedigree. However, Mr. Furner has earned this promotion and the company has been doing quite well as of late. Mr. Furner’s challenge will be to keep the train on the track and continue with its innovative approaches as Walmart competes with Amazon and other leading retailers.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I have always said that one serious criteria should always be involved in the assignment of new leadership in the retail world: check their hands for scars from setting fixtures on the sales floor. That is a little tongue-in-cheek, but the principle is that any executive should/must have a deep background and understanding in all aspects of working at different levels within the stores. Then and only then, can/will they have compassion and reality-based expectations on what must be done and when, to meet their goals. Everyone wants to be led by a general that has fought the fights, and John Furner certainly has. Greatest challenge? Do it now. Expectations are huge.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Clearly the move to omnichannel marketing is a top-of-mind focus for Walmart and it is, and will continue to be, their greatest challenge alongside logistics (including last-mile delivery), warehousing, and profitability. Competing with Amazon in a shifting online environment is key.

Paco Underhill
Guest

We like retail senior management who started their careers as associates. It shows boots on the ground experience. In the US Army we call them mustangs — enlisted men who became officers. Retail remains one career path that regardless of social background or education — if you have the chops, you can climb the ladder. Good luck John.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"When a top executive has gone through the ranks, they have a better understanding of what takes place in the lower levels, what works and what does not."
"It’s not a bad message to send as Walmart promotes career advancement opportunities for its associates."
"Retail remains one career path that regardless of social background or education — if you have the chops, you can climb the ladder."

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