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Wal-Mart announced on Friday that it has hired Jack Sinclair, a former executive at both Tesco and Safeway Plc in the UK, to be its vice president of grocery merchandise, in charge of planning, category management and general oversight of Wal-Mart's U.S. grocery business.

Sinclair will report to executive vice president and chief merchandising officer John Fleming, who said in a prepared statement, “Jack has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the retail food business and I look forward to his contributions as we continue to grow our grocery business, His passion for people, products and customers will bring new perspective and innovative thinking to our company.”

The Financial Times reports that Sinclair is one of several British retail executives who have gone to work for Wal-Mart.

KC's View:
It is worth noting that Tesco, Sinclair’s former employer, was expert at running a number of different food-driven formats, ranging from c-stores to metro stores to supercenters. And, as has been reported, Wal-Mart has been playing with a number of new format ideas as it looks for ways to jump-start its sales and stock price.

Could Sinclair’s job, in part, be to revitalize the Neighborhood Market format and get greater ROI so that a broader rollout is viable? Or to create some sort of new format that would attempt to generate greater grocery sales? Or something else?

FT writes that Wal-Mart “is also pursuing initiatives aimed at increasing the share of private label goods it sells - an area where the US supermarket industry as a whole lags behind the UK and Europe in terms of the percentage of private label goods sold.”

I could be wrong about this, but this sort of hire doesn’t seem like it is designed just to improve the way supercenters sell food. There’s almost certainly a more ambitious end game…