Sears Looks To Wal-Mart, Microsoft Talent To Help Online

Sears is tapping talent from Wal-Mart and Microsoft to try and resurrect its online operations Sears is tapping talent from Wal-Mart and Microsoft to try and resurrect its online operations, as it also replaces its CEO with its senior supply-chain executive.

That move is because, as the Sears Chairman said in a Monday statement, "We are entering a new phase in Sears' evolution as a multi-channel retailer."

The new interim CEO, Bruce Johnson, came up through the KMart side of the business and he had gone to KMart from French retail empire Carrefour, where he had been director, organization and systems and a member of the management board. Before that, he spent 16 years at Colgate-Palmolive and had worked as a management consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton and Arthur Andersen & Company.

In replacing CEO Aylwin B. Lewis, Sears Holdings Chairman Edward S. Lampert "played a key role in the integration of Kmart and Sears and in implementing important initiatives" but that the company was moving into a new phase where merged channel issues would need to be given a higher priority.

"We are entering a new phase in Sears' evolution as a multi-channel retailer, as reflected by the new operational structure we recently announced, and the board has determined that now is the right time to put in place new leadership to take the company forward," the chairman's statement said. "As we realign Sears into five different types of focused business units, we will be redefining how our leaders operate by giving them greater autonomy and accountability for their businesses. We intend to put in place an operating model that allows managers to act with the flexibility and speed required in today's dynamic and highly competitive marketplace."

Johnson joined Kmart in 2003 as senior vice president -- supply chain and operations and at the time of the merger was appointed executive vice president -- supply chain and operations for the combined company. He was named to the Office of the Chairman in 2005 and took on store operations in 2006.

The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend that JamesBarr, a 12-year Microsoft executive and general manager of MSN Shopping and Marketplaces, will take over the online unit effective Feb. 2 as a senior vice president of Sears Holdings.

"Separately, Sears confirmed Neil Day, a former Walmart.com executive, is joining the firm as the online unit's senior vice president and chief technology officer," according to the Journal piece. "He most recently was chief executive officer of digital-music storage start-up, Media Master Inc."

Sears online has run into a series of challenges recently, with the retailer having placed Spyware on its My SHC Community site, allowing anyone to view customers' purchase histories and a lawsuit that was filed because of that open-access purchase history. Sears has also gotten some good publicity as it was one of the first to trial 2-D barcodes, starting last month.

From a financial perspective, the Journal notes, Sears has had even more challenges. "In the last three quarters, profits at the 121-year-old retailer have declined on a year-to-year basis despite new marketing, online and sales initiatives," the Journal said. "Sears said fourth-quarter profit would fall about 50 percent from a year earlier."

Barr will reportedly "oversee operations, business and technology for all the company's online units. In the past, sears.com, kmart.com, and most other online operations reported to John C. Walden, the retailer's chief customer officer. Mr. Walden left the company a week ago."

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