- Walmart’s executive vice president of central operations and realty, Mark Ibbotson, is leaving the company, according to a company memo obtained by Grocery Dive. A head of realty will be announced at a later date, along with a head of operations support.
- The memo, written by Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furner, said the retailer is shifting some of its staff and projects that formerly operated under the central operations division to its product team led by recently hired chief product officer Meng Chee. Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product innovation and a leader of Walmart's online grocery expansion, will move to Chee's team, as will John Crecelius, a senior vice president tasked with improving store processes. The product division reports to chief customer officer Janey Whiteside.
- Furner wrote that the new head of realty and head of operations support along with Walmart's head of asset protection and safety will report to chief operating officer Dacona Smith, who was named to the position earlier this month. All changes will be effective Feb. 1.
Under Ibbotson’s leadership, Walmart transformed its U.S. business by launching its online grocery platform as well as Academies, which provides training programs for associates. Its grocery e-commerce platform, spearheaded by grocery pickup, has expanded to most stores.
Ibbotson helped lead many of Walmart’s technology advancements aimed at saving associates and customers time. This includes Alphabot, which automatically brings products from storage to associates to pack online orders. Other technologies include Check Out With Me, which gives employees the ability to check out shoppers anywhere in the store using a handheld device, and the company's automated pickup towers.
In 2018, Walmart added real estate responsibilities to Ibbotson's position in an effort to streamline its business.
The shift of additional online grocery oversight to Walmart's relatively new product innovation team indicates the company wants to bring more customer-centric changes to the e-commerce division. The company rolled out voice-activated shopping last year, and its grocery pickup platform features tools that identify less-busy pickup times for customers and make "smart" product substitutions whenever products are out of stock.
Walmart has been undergoing significant executive and organizational changes as it expands its digital operations and tries to keep pace with evolving shopper demands. Earlier this month the company announced the departure of chief merchant Steve Bratspies and the appointment of Dacona Smith to chief operating officer of Walmart's U.S. business. The company also appointed a new head of its Neighborhood Markets division, Kevin Buncum, who will report to Smith, and hired Chee, who was formerly the chief digital experience officer at JPMorgan Chase, as its first chief product officer.
Furner replaced Greg Foran as head of Walmart U.S. in October, and in July announced it had merged its U.S. supply chain teams and finance operations. Last year, the company announced the hiring of Whiteside, an American Express veteran, as well as new chief technology officer Suresh Kumar.
In Tuesday's memo, CEO of Walmart U.S. John Furner attributed the company's latest shuffle to the evaluation process it underwent in determining a new chief operating officer.
“These changes will allow us to operate more efficiently and with more role clarity,” he noted in Tuesday’s company memo.