January 29, 2010, 12:00 AM

Wal-Mart creates a global e-commerce unit, reorganizes U.S. web operations

Wal-Mart has set up a new global e-commerce unit to drive international online sales, while restructuring its Walmart.com U.S. division to integrate it more closely with stores.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has set up a new global e-commerce unit called Global.com to drive online growth in new markets as well as in those where it sells today. The retail giant also restructured its Walmart.com U.S. division to integrate it more closely with store operations.

“Now that we have a well-defined blueprint to continue to grow our online business, it’s time to leverage our size and global footprint to take advantage of this evolving customer trend,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman, in a memo to staff. Castro-Wright oversees both the company’s U.S. operations and its global sourcing organization.

Wal-Mart, which operates e-commerce sites in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Mexico and Brazil, says the Global.com unit will work to develop global e-commerce strategies and create a single global e-commerce platform that could be used in every market. The idea of a single global e-commerce platform echoes the model used by the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon.com Inc.

Wan Ling Martello, previously Wal-Mart International chief financial officer, will head up the Global.com unit as executive vice president and operating officer of Global.com. She’ll also oversee the product management, application development, platform engineering and strategy teams of Walmart.com, No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name).

In the U.S., Wal-Mart reassigned Walmart.com CEO Raul Vazquez to executive vice president and president of the newly created Wal-Mart West offline division. Vazquez long asserted that Walmart.com’s goal is to be the most visited and valued online retail site. “If there’s going to be a Wal-Mart of the web, it’s going to be Walmart.com,” he has said on several occasions. Rather than replace Vazquez as Walmart.com CEO, the retailer says it plans to integrate its online and offline merchandising and operations.

Steve Nave, previously Walmart.com chief operating officer, will oversee that effort as general manager of the retailer’s U.S. web site. Nave will report to John Fleming, chief merchandising officer.

Stephen Quinn, the retailer’s chief marketing officer of Wal-Mart’s U.S. division, will now also oversee the company’s online marketing activities.

Along with the Internet-related moves, Wal-Mart also says it is consolidating its U.S. operations into three new geographical units-Wal-Mart West, overseen by Vazquez, along with Wal-Mart South and Wal-Mart North. Each unit will have a president who can respond to local market conditions.

The reorganization may be aimed at a more aggressive push into urban markets with smaller-footprint stores, says analyst Peter Benedict, of Robert W. Baird & Co.

The changes are the latest in a number of moves aimed at driving growth, in part, by challenging Amazon.com, the Wal-Mart of the web-at least for now. Wal-Mart executives have long argued that they can employ Walmart.com together with the 4,200 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in the U.S to offer consumers convenience they can’t get from an online-only retailer. For instance, as the retailer aims to open smaller urban stores, it plans to use access to Walmart.com to expand the assortment in those stores.

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