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Walmart US CEO Bill Simon to step down as growth lags

Ellen MeyersThe Christian Science Monitor

Walmart US CEO Bill Simon will step down next month, with Walmart Asia CEO Greg Foran replacing him, the company announced Thursday.

Mr. Foran will assume Mr. Simon’s position on Aug. 9, according to a Walmamrt press release. Simon, who is leaving Walmart, will be available to help Foran transition into the role, the company says.

“Greg is one of the most talented retailers I’ve ever met,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillion says in the release. “His depth of knowledge and global experience will bring a fresh perspective to our business.”

Simon became CEO of Walmart’s US division in 2010 and he's been with the company for eight years. In the release, Mr. McMillion says Simon led the company toward offering $4 prescriptions and has been leading Walmart toward integrating the company’s digital and physical retail. 

Walmart has been struggling with maintaining high growth and meeting revenue targets. The retail giant reported disappointing first quarter earnings, citing severe weather in the US and a higher effective tax rate. The company also suffered from big cuts in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits because at least 20 percent of its customers rely on food stamps, according to USA Today.

Walmart US comp sales were also flat. Walmart’s e-commerce sales went up 27 percent, but e-commerce only accounts for 0.3 percent of the retailer's total sales in the US.  However, Walmart has found success with print and digital books. Amazon, one of Walmart's major competitors, is currently embroiled in a feud with Hachette, a major publisher, making it difficult for readers to purchase Hachette titles from the online giant. Walmart has capitalized by offering discounts on Hachette books and seeing huge  books sales increases as a result. 

Walmart has also been struggling with its public image. The retailer has been a focal point in the ongoing fight for increased worker wages. More than 475,000 of its 1 million hourly store employees make more than $25,000 a year, according to a presentation Simon had used, via Business Week. So, about 525,000 earn less than $25,000 a year, and many say it isn’t a livable wage. In response, thousands of workers have been protesting Walmart on Black Friday and several other major shopping holidays for the past several years.

Walmart stocks were down 0.74 percent to $76.42 per share late Thursday morning.