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Sears hires a former Wal-Mart executive
Sears, Roebuck and Co. hired a former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive to help the struggling retailer's strategy for improving sales.
Jeffery Gruener will fill the newly created post of vice president of corporate strategy for the Hoffman Estates retailer. He is a former senior strategic planning executive at the Bentonville, Ark., discounter and will work with the Sears team responsible for 871 full-line stores, most of which are anchored to malls.
"Jeff will be responsible for retail strategy, working with the full-line stores team on retail store turnaround, growth and strategic positioning," Sara LaPorta, Sears' senior vice president for strategy, said in a memo.
Facing its fourth straight year of falling sales, Sears increasingly is looking outside the company for help in righting its retail operations.
"Our goal has always been to look at talent here and supplement it with seasoned executives from the industry," said Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite. "That's not a knock on the talent here, but we like to have a new perspective."
On July 12, Sears announced an external search to fill another new position, president of Sears' retail.
Outsiders are said to have the edge for the new post, which would be the No. 2 job at Sears behind Chief Executive Officer Alan Lacy. The new president will oversee not only Sears' mall stores, but also its growing off-mall presence.
On June 30, Sears acquired 61 stand-alone stores from Wal-Mart and Kmart Holding Corp. Most of those locations will be folded into the full-line stores division of which Gruener is now a part.
One executive recruiter wasn't surprised to hear about Sears' poaching from a rival.
"You look at the numbers, and Wal-Mart and other big-box guys have clearly been ascending" at the expense of Sears, said Kerry Moynihan, managing partner for search firm Christian & Timbers in McLean, Va.
"It makes sense to go to your successful competitors and figure out what you have to do to emulate them," he said.
At Wal-Mart, Gruener was responsible for rolling out Sam's Club in the Canadian market, the Sears memo said. He'll report to LaPorta.
Also this week, Sears named Catherine David to the post of general manager of its Great Indoors home improvement chain.
David formerly was president of Newell-Rubbermaid's Burnes Group, the world's biggest photo frames supplier. She also worked at Target Corp. for 12 years.