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Wal-Mart’s latest move to slam Target in Canada: New CEO with grocery chops

Jun 20, 2014

Wal-Mart Stores (wmt) has turned to a Belgian grocer in its latest move to keep Target (tgt) from finding its footing in Canada.

Walmart Canada, which operates 391 stores, said on Friday it has hired Dirk van den Berghe, most recently the head of international food retailer Delhaize Group's operations in Luxembourg and Belgium, as its new CEO starting in August.

"His vast experience will allow us to strengthen our growing food business in Canada," said Shelley Broader, recently promoted to president and CEO of Walmart’s EMEA Region (which also includes Canada for Wal-Mart's purposes.)

Just as it is in the United States, where grocery generates more than half of Wal-Mart's sales, food is a big category for Walmart Canada. And it was a bright spot in Walmart Canada's most recent quarterly sales results, which showed a decline in comparable sales.And just like in the U.S., Walmart has been very promotional in its Canadian grocery business to increase the price gap with the competition, allowing it to win some market share.

That can't be good news for Target, which is also a major grocery retailer, but is struggling to recover from a botched entry into the Canadian market in 2013 which has cost it $1 billion and counting.

Van den Berghe's appointment was the latest by Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon to shuffle the retailer's executive ranks since starting his job in February. He has named new heads to Wal-Mart's e-commerce business, its Asian unit and its EMEA unit.

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