Walmart promotes Kathryn McLay to International business CEO

US supermarket giant Walmart has announced the promotion of Sam’s Club chief exec Kathryn McLay to the head of its international business.

Walmart, which sold its majority stake in Asda in 2021, operates in 19 countries outside of the US including China, Mexico and South Africa. Its international business is worth around $100 billion, though it has struggled for growth in certain markets in light of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on consumer sentiment.

McLay is thought of highly by Walmart executives. The Australian joined the business in 2015 and will succeed Judith McKenna, who is retiring after 27 years at Walmart, on 11 September.

In a note announcing the changes, Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon praised McKenna for overseeing a transformation at Walmart International which delivered “more growth and stronger financial results across the board.” Along with successfully navigating the sale of Asda in the UK to the Issa brothers, McKenna also guided Walmart International through exits in poorly performing markets including Japan, Argentina and Brazil.

The outgoing McKenna will remain with the business until 31 January 2024 "to help ensure a smooth transition and to continue serving on our Walmex, Flipkart and PhonePe Boards," McMillon wrote in his memo.

McLay, who previously served as an executive at Australia’s Woolworths before taking over at the CostCo-rivalling Sam’s Club, is praised in McMillon’s memo for delivering “12 straight quarters of double-digit sales growth” and prioritising “a member-centric culture, the improvement of our merchandise quality and an expansion of our omnichannel capabilities.”

“She’ll do a phenomenal job leading our International business,” McMillon added.

The promotion of McLay might suggest that Walmart is looking to emulate the membership model that has seen success in the US internationally. Sam’s Club, like its chief rival CostCo, requires a paid membership for consumers to shop there, while the company is also seeing growing success with its Amazon Prime-like Walmart+ membership.

The company has also announced that Walmart US chief operating officer Chris Nicholas will take over as president and chief executive of Sam's Club. Of Nicholas, who is also Australian, McMillon wrote: "Chris has a passion for the development of our associates and for serving our customers. He’ll bring this passion to Sam’s Club, and I know he will do an exceptional job.

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