Rosalind Brewer, the first woman and first black person to lead a business unit of Wal-Mart, is stepping down at the end of January 2017. Her departure leaves no women or people of colour with a CEO title at Wal-Mart.
"She’s leaving Sam’s with momentum," said Doug McMillon, CEO of parent company Wal-Mart Stores. "Roz and the team have developed a strategy that’s led to three consecutive quarters of improving comp sales and some exciting innovation."
Ms. Brewer is leaving the $57 billion a year revenue, 650 store company after five years. The Sam's Club chain has struggled to increase sales growth. Sam's has reported growth, albeit modest, in the last three quarters, including a 1.4% jump (excluding fuel) in the most recent quarter. But those numbers pale in comparison to the growth rates at Costco.
Ms. Brewer refocused Sam’s Club’s attention on attracting a more affluent clientele. Sam’s Club executives believe higher-income shoppers are drawn to wholesale clubs that require membership fees, thereby lessening head-to-head competition with Wal-Mart stores for it’s core lower-income consumer.
Ms. Brewer has held a unique and at times challenging role as Wal-Mart’s highest-ranking African-American and female leader. She was criticized, for example, for promoting diversity at retailers and their vendors during a CNN interview in 2015.