Walmart’s U.S. chief Bill Simon is leaving the company after a rough four years.
The 54-year-old will be replaced by Greg Foran, 53, Walmart’s current president and CEO in Asia.
The reason for his departure is not clear. The retail giant has been struggling recently. U.S. store sales have fallen for the past five quarters, the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out. The economic woes of Walmart customers, including sluggish employment and cuts to federal food-stamp benefits, contributed to the slump. However, dollar stores, online retailers and other competitors seem to have weathered the storm better.
The timing of the move comes just two weeks before the company is expected to announce another quarter of declining sales. Simon himself warned of a slump in a Reuters interview earlier this month.
"That is a no-no, perhaps a final straw in light of poor management of the business during his tenure," analyst Brian Sozzi, founder of Belus Capital Advisors, told The Huffington Post.
Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Walmart's chief executive and president Doug McMillon took the reins just this February, succeeding Mike Duke. A former Pepsico executive and state administrator for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Simon was long considered a likely replacement for Duke.
McMillon, the youngest CEO in Walmart history, is desperately trying to engineer a turnaround. He is pushing online sales and looking to get away from the "big box" concept. The retailer is planning to open smaller stores this year for the first time ever, according to the WSJ. It's also looking to boost alcohol sales.
Promoted from chief operating officer in 2010, Simon presided over a tumultuous time for Walmart. A year after his arrival, the world’s largest retailer lost U.S. market share for the first time in a decade.
Walmart has been losing out to online competitors such as Amazon -- Walmart’s in-store shoppers vastly preferred the e-commerce giant to Walmart.com, according to a recent UBS report. In March 2013, poorly-stocked shelves drove customers to brick-and-mortar competitors such as Kohl’s, Safeway, Target and Walgreen, Bloomberg reported.
The world’s largest retailer was rocked by a bribery scandal more than two years ago at its Mexican division. The incident cost Walmart $157 million in the 2012 fiscal year. The fallout continued to claim high-level executives well into the last year.
In China, Foran was overseeing an expansion beyond the country’s biggest urban centers and into fast-growing smaller cities. But in the midst of a major election in India, he halted plans to enter the enormous market.
Last year, when a key tax benefit for the the middle class expired the retailer took a huge hit to sales. In an internal email, obtained by Bloomberg News, executives said that February 2013 was the worst month they'd seen in years.
Walmart has been under pressure to raise its wages. A report from Americans for Tax Fairness found that many of Walmart’s low-wage workers are on food stamps, and cost U.S. taxpayers $6.2 billion a year. The company was widely panned as a “welfare queen,” whose grocery division benefits from the food stamps its workers are forced to rely on.
Foran will take office Aug. 9. Simon, meanwhile, will remain on as a consultant for six months.
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