- Wal-Mart's Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Quinn will retire in January, a spokesperson for the company told Ad Age. The news was originally reported by the Wall Street Journal.
- Wal-Mart plans to hire Michael Francis as a marketing consultant to help lead a broad marketing overhaul at the company, a source familiar to the situation told the Journal. Francis spent nearly 27 years at Target, and is widely credited with pioneering Target's "cheap-chic" image.
- The retailer is currently in the middle of a turnaround effort spearheaded by CEO Doug McMillon. The focus of the effort is on building out its e-commerce operations, improving its stores, and appealing to more high-income customers.
The news of Quinn’s departure in January comes amid plans to overhaul Wal-Mart's marketing efforts as CEO McMillon looks to expand the retailer's customer base.
“Globally we know that growth will disproportionately come from middle- and upper-middle income households in the years ahead,” McMillon said at an annual investor meeting in October.
Wal-Mart hopes to achieve this growth by improving its stores and customer service, and greatly expanding its e-commerce operations. Wal-Mart is working to improve its stores' aesthetic and customer experience by raising workers’ wages (and thus attracting more high-quality employees) and addressing its out-of-stock problems. Wal-Mart has also made moves to attract more affluent grocery shoppers by providing a better grocery selection with more organic food and upgraded offerings.
Longtime CMO Stephen Quinn will no longer lead the marketing team in support of these efforts. After joining Wal-Mart in 2005, Quinn helped develop Wal-Mart’s well-known “Save money. Live better.” slogan. Quinn was previously the head marketer at PepsiCo's Frito-Lay North America unit.
Notably, Quinn convinced Wal-Mart executives during his tenure to value marketing “at a company that has not always done so,” the Journal reported. Quinn managed Wal-Mart’s digital marketing growth while at the company, including the implementation of the retailer’s local-specific Facebook strategy.
Now, veteran Target executive Michael Francis will lead Wal-Mart in a broad marketing overhaul while an eventual successor to Quinn is hired.
"Walmart is a great company and a great brand, with tremendous recognition across the world," Francis said in a statement issued through Walmart. "I'm committed to building on the strength of that brand."
In bringing on Francis, Wal-Mart would gain someone with experience in attracting a more high-end customer, something which Francis helped Target do before he left the company in 2011. Francis is credited with helping craft Target’s now-famous designer partnerships, including deals with fashion houses like Missoni and architect Michael Graves.
Although Francis had left by then, Target’s most recent collaboration with Lilly Pulitzer showed how successful the strategy could be. The collection sold out almost instantly, causing a frenzy in stores and the retailer’s website to crash. If Francis can bring some of the same success to Wal-Mart, it could help the retailer achieve its stated goal of appealing to a more affluent clientele.
Francis’ move to Wal-Mart could unnerve executives at Target, which is in the process of implementing its own turnaround. “If I was still working Target, my heart would just sink,” a former Target executive told the Journal.
After rising initially on the news, Wal-Mart's stock price slid back to end the day at $59.57, which, overall, was a less than 1% increase on the day.
A request for comment from Wal-Mart by Retail Dive went unanswered at press time.