BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is ushering in a changing of the guard as the world's largest retailer confronts slower growth and challenges to its reputation.
Doug McMillon, head of Wal-Mart's international division, will succeed CEO and President Mike Duke, 63, when he steps down on Feb 1 after five years in those roles. McMillon, a 23-year company veteran, will become the fifth CEO since Wal-Mart's founder Sam Walton.
The change at the top is indicative of a recent shift in strategy at the company best known for its cutthroat pricing and big box stores. McMillon, 47, is expected to infuse a youthful spirit into Wal-Mart's culture at a time when the company is trying to reinvent itself to attract a generation of shoppers who gravitate toward tablets and mobile devices.
The move also is a testament to the company's continued focus on its international division. McMillon, who started at the company in 1984 as a summer intern, left and came back in 1990 to work at Wal-Mart store before holding several jobs, including a three-year stint as president and CEO of the Sam's Club division.
But in February 2009, he succeeded Duke to head the international division, which accounted for 29 percent of its $466.1 billion in annual net sales in Wal-Mart's latest fiscal year. In that role, McMillon has been expanding Wal-Mart's everyday low prices to Brazil and China, while trying to boost profitability by closing some stores in those countries.
"This is a very natural progression," said Brian Sozzi, CEO and chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors. "Wal-Mart's engine of growth has been international."
McMillon and Duke were not immediately available for comment.
McMillon faces challenges. Wal-Mart is seeing its low-income shoppers in the U.S. struggling with stagnant wages and rising costs. At the same time, Wal-Mart faces fierce competition from online competitors and dollar chains that offer convenience and lower prices.
The company also has image problems. Wal-Mart is being pressured to further increase its oversight of factory conditions abroad following a building collapse in April in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,127 garment workers. And it continues to face criticism over its treatment of its hourly workers.