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• The New York Times reports that Andrew Ruben, who has been running Wal-Mart’s environmental initiatives, is changing jobs and will become head of private label strategy, in charge of in-house brands like Sam’s Choice and Great Value.

According to the Times, he will be succeeded by Matthew Kistler, “who oversaw Wal-Mart’s effort to reduce unnecessary product packaging at Sam’s Club, the chain’s warehouse division, where he has been senior vice president for marketing.”

The Times suggests that the move was unexpected, seeing as how Ruben “became a fixture at company shareholder and media conferences, an executive-cum diplomat who argued that Wal-Mart — because of its size — had the power to significantly affect the global effort to reduce carbon emissions and manmade waste.” Ruben has been “the public face of Wal-Mart’s sustainability campaign, cultivating relationships with unlikely allies of the world’s largest retailer. At his prodding, Wal-Mart executives visited organic cotton fields in Turkey and invited Al Gore to the company’s Arkansas headquarters to talk about global warming.”

Business Week reports that Wal-Mart will hold its annual two-day conference for investors and financial analysts this week, and some observers believe it will use the occasion to talk about new and smaller store formats that the company hopes will jump-start its sales growth – and stock price. Such stores might position Wal-Mart to better compete in urban markets where there has been resistance to its traditional big box models, as well as allowing it to adapt to challenges from retailers such as Tesco, the UK-based retailer that is scheduled to start opening stores in the western US in just a few weeks.
KC's View:
I’m not saying that creating smaller formats is a bad idea, but I do think that Wal-Mart has to worry a little less about Wall Street … though I’ll concede that it is tough to do when you’re a public company.