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Wal-Mart Appoints Two Top Executives to U.S. Operation

Wal-Mart Stores, which has been trying to rekindle growth in its U.S. operations, on Friday said it created two new positions within its Wal-Mart Stores U.S. segment.

The world's largest retailer said it had named Bill Simon chief operating officer and Pat Curran executive vice president of people. Both will report to Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores U.S.

The appointments are effective immediately.

Simon will oversee five operations presidents, representing 3,400 stores, and will also manage the company's pharmacy and optical businesses and its in-store medical clinics, Wal-Mart said.

Currant will lead the human resources division, which oversees Wal-Mart's almost 1.2 million U.S. employees.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company has been shifting executives. Friday's changes come a week after it announced its vice chairman, John Menzer, would assume the responsibilities of chief administrative officer to solidify his leadership of strategic planning and many company-wide support functions.

Wal-Mart last week also announced that Castro-Wright, who had reported to Menzer, would now report directly to Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott. That put all three company operating divisions -- Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and International -- directly under Scott.

The retailer has been trying to get its U.S. stores -- which faced remodeling projects, limited opportunities for U.S. growth, problems with its apparel offerings and a drop in temperatures -- back on a growth track.

In addition, the low-income shoppers who patronize Wal-Mart may have less money to spend because they are feeling a squeeze from higher gas prices and mortgage problems.

Last year, it played down its discount roots to try to enhance its image. It stocked more upscale items such as organic food and plasma TVs, hoping wealthier consumers would spend more in its stores.

But its lower-income customers balked at some of the changes, and Wal-Mart's results suffered.

The company is struggling with its goal of increasing the number of U.S. stores, including its Sam's Club warehouses. The company had more than 4,000 such stores at the end of January.