John Furner is a career-long Walmart employee who was named as the next United States CEO on October 10, 2019. Furner will officially transition into the role on November 1 and report directly to President and CEO Doug McMillon. Furner previously served as the chief executive of Sam’s Club, which is a division of Walmart, since early 2017.
Walmart has more than 11,300 stores worldwide. Furner will be responsible for overseeing the more than 4,700 locations in the United States and its more than 1.5 million employees. Walmart is the largest employer in the United States.
Furner will take over amid a challenging political climate. In September of 2019, Walmart announced that it would stop selling handguns, military-style rifles, and certain ammunition. The decision was announced a few weeks after 22 people were killed in a shooting attack at a store in El Paso, Texas.
It was also announced in mid-September that Walmart and Sam’s Club locations would stop selling e-cigarettes amid an outbreak of severe lung illnesses linked to vaping.
Here’s what you need to know about John Furner.
1. John Furner Began Working For Walmart as an Hourly Employee During College; He Earned More Than $12 Million in 2017
John Furner has been with Walmart for his entire professional career. He first started working part-time for the company in 1993 as a college student at the University of Arkansas. He was an hourly associate working in the garden center of a superstore, according to a company news release.
Furner graduated from college in 1996 and stayed with Walmart. According to his LinkedIn profile, Furner was promoted to an Assistant buyer position in 1997. He later served as a store manager for four years, before becoming a District Operations Manager.
Furner’s other titles within the company included Director of Merchandising for Sam’s Club Hardlines, VP of Global Sourcing and Seasonal Merchandising, and Senior Vice President of Proprietary Brands and Merchandise Solutions.
As the CEO of Sam’s Club, Furner earned a base salary of more than $780,000. According to the Arkansas-based news outlet Talk Business & Politics, Furner also received $9.856 million in stock awards in fiscal year 2017, along with a cash bonus of $1.6 million.
2. Walmart Is Investing Heavily In China & Furner Previously Worked There
John Furner has an in-depth understanding of the Chinese market. He lived in China from January of 2013 until October of 2015 and served as Walmart’s Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer there.
That prior experience may be useful amid the ongoing economic dispute between the United States and China. Walmart announced in July of 2019 that it planned to invest more than a billion dollars into its distribution centers in China over the next two decades. Grocery markets are a major focus of the business in China.
Walmart has been operating in China since 1996. It first opened a Sam’s Club in Shenzhen that year and now has more than 400 retail locations.
3. As CEO of Sam’s Club, Furner Closed 63 Stores & Announced Plans to Convert Them Into Distribution Centers For Online Sales
John Furner has been at the forefront of the battle between Walmart and Amazon as Americans do more of their shopping online.
Walmart is the third-largest online retailer in the nation. But according to Forbes, as of August 2019, Amazon still accounted for approximately 40 percent of all online shopping in the United States.
In January of 2018, Furner had to deliver the news that 63 Sam’s Club locations were closing and that thousands of workers were losing their jobs. Furner wrote in a company-wide email that several of the stores would be converted “into eCommerce fulfillment centers — to better serve the growing number of members shopping with us online.” The first location reopened in Memphis, Tennessee, in June of 2018.
4. Furner Oversaw the Development of a ‘Scan and Go’ System at Sam’s Club
John Furner will be in a position to continue to advance technologies at Walmart. While at Sam’s Club, he promoted the incorporation of a “scan and go” system. Furner explained that the system allows shoppers to skip the checkout line by scanning items with their smartphone cameras and then paying online. The program also saves frequently-bought items that customers can request online in the future.
In a news release announcing his promotion to CEO of Walmart U.S., Furner stressed that he’s excited for the chance to continue to grow the company. He will take over on November 1 for outgoing CEO Greg Foran, who is leaving to become CEO at Air New Zealand Limited.
Furner wrote, “There’s no better place than Walmart U.S. to touch the lives of millions of customers and associates. Together with the team, we will build on the progress under Greg’s leadership and continue to make Walmart an even better place to work and shop. I also want to thank the Sam’s Club team. My years with you have been amazing.”
5. John Furner Is a Licensed Pilot & Is Married With Four Children
When he’s not working, John Furner enjoys flying. According to public records with the Federal Aviation Administration, Furner has had a commercial pilot’s license since at least 2018.
Furner has been married to his wife, Brandy, since 1996. They have four children, which includes a son and three daughters.