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In defense of John Fleming

BY Drug Store News Team

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Recently departed chief merchandising officer John Fleming will be remembered for a lot of things during his 10-year career at Walmart, but a champion of the retailer’s corporate culture isn’t one of them. That’s too bad.

(THE NEWS: Walmart chief merchant announces departure. For the full story, click here)

Reflecting back on the broad range of strategic initiatives implemented during the time Fleming ran the online division, marketing and then merchandising, the one thing you have to say about the guy is that he swam upstream and was willing to fail. Those two attributes should be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of Walmart corporate culture. Sam Walton swam upstream decades ago when he bucked industry trends to establish the Walmart business model, and by promoting a willingness to fail he inspired a culture of experimentation that kept Walmart on the leading edge when it came to serving consumers.

No one will ever confuse John Fleming for Sam Walton, but who at Walmart swam upstream more, experimented more or was an agent of change more than John Fleming? Things didn’t always work out, but they seldom do in retail. It is an inexact science that requires constant risk-taking and probing to achieve continued success. Sam Walton recognized that, and by establishing a culture that professed to celebrate failure, he effectively promoted the type of entrepreneurialism and risk-taking that is essential for growth.

“In the 10 years John has spent at Walmart he has built a strong team and been the architect of groundbreaking efforts to grow our e-commerce business, creative marketing programs to communicate with customers and inventive merchandising initiatives,” said Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon. “On a personal note, I’d like to thank John for his many contributions and for the direction he set for the company.”

Well put — especially the part about inventive merchandising initiatives. Fleming wasn’t a beloved figure among the retailer’s sizable and close-knit supplier community in Northwest Arkansas, and some of those inventive merchandising initiatives likely played a role in his decision to leave the company. Even so, Fleming should be hailed as something of a hero, especially by those who believe — as we are told Sam did — in the importance of swimming upstream and being willing to fail.

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99 Cents Only quarterly comps up 2.7%

BY Gail Hoffer

CITY OF COMMERCE, Calif. — 99 Cents Only Stores reported total sales of $346.5 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2011 ended June 26. This represents an increase of 4.3% over total sales of $332.1 million for the same quarter last year.

The company said overall same-store sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2011 increased 2.7%, with the number of same-store sales transactions increasing 2.3% and the average transaction size increasing to $9.60 from $9.56.

Eric Schiffer, CEO of 99 Cents Only Stores, stated, “In the first quarter, we are pleased to report that we achieved 2.7% same-store sales growth, which was in line with our expectations. Based on our high average volume per store, this represents a healthy increase in average annualized sales of approximately $127,000 per store. Additionally, we are pleased with the strong same-store sales for our Texas stores, which continue to outperform our average same-store sales growth rate.”

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Expanded Taylor Swift greeting card collection now available

BY Allison Cerra

CLEVELAND American Greetings’ expanded collection written and inspired by Taylor Swift is now available.

The collection of cards features 14 all-new designs and classic summer imagery. The latest selection offers birthday cards for your best friend, a little bit of romance for that special someone and cards to share with anyone who puts a smile on your face — just to let them know you’re thinking about them, according to American Greetings.

“We had so much fun with the summer collection,” stated Maureen Meidenbauer, Taylor Swift brand manager at American Greetings. “We know there are others out there who can relate to the feelings in all of these cards, and we can’t wait for them to get a chance to share it.”

Currently, the latest Taylor Swift greeting card collection can be found at select American Greetings retail partners throughout the United States.

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