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Wal-Mart (WMT) Announces Food Leadership Changes As Competition Heats Up

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Wal-Mart (WMT - Free Report) has announced changes to its U.S. food leadership team in an internal memo on Friday, reports Reuters. Executive Vice President Charles Redfield said Wal-Mart is working to position leaders from the company in new roles to make the company more competitive.

One such change is for Shawn Baldwin, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for produce and global food sourcing. He will begin to focus on a new initiative for Hispanic customers. Martin Mundo, who has worked for Wal-Mart in Argentina, will replace Baldwin.

Earlier this month, Target Corporation (TGT - Free Report) CEO Brian Cornell said that Hispanic customers are shopping less this year. “They are staying at home,” Cornell said. “They are going out less often. Particularly around border towns in the United States, you’re seeing a change in behavior.”

The memo did not elaborate on the new initiative, but it seems Wal-Mart is facing similar issues with its Hispanic customers.

Wal-Mart will also split leadership in its bakery and deli departments. Kerry Robinson used to be in charge of both the bakery and deli business, but now will just oversee the bakery while Tyler Lehr will take over the company’s deli services.

The company announced leadership changes in its merchandising operations in a separate memo sent on Friday. One such change for Wal-Mart is the company naming Greg Hall as senior vice president of merchandise operation for food.

The retail giant has made this move at a time when grocery companies are competing heavily for consumers. German grocery chain Lidl opened its first U.S. stores last month and plans to have 100 open by the summer of 2018. Aldi, another grocery store competitor, recently announced expansion plans to open 900 additional stores over the next five years. Both chains offer low prices similar to Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart’s leadership changes also follow Amazon.com’s (AMZN - Free Report) purchase of Whole Foods (WFM - Free Report) for $13.7 billion. While Amazon has experimented with food delivery through its Prime Fresh grocery delivery service, the retail giant’s acquisition of Whole Food suggests a full investment into food and grocery services.

While Wal-Mart dominates brick-and-mortar retail, Amazon has a superior online presence. Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods could threaten Wal-Mart’s current position.

Time will tell if these leadership shake-ups make a difference for Wal-Mart in the long run.

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