Rosalind Brewer, the first woman and the first African American to head Sam’s Club, stepped down from her position Friday, reports Fortune.
After five years at the helm of Sam’s Club, Brewer will be replaced by John Furner, Sam's Club’s chief merchant. Although Brewer said she is leaving the $57 billion-a-year company because “she wants a new challenge,” the word is that she is leaving because Sam’s is lagging behind its main competitor, Costco. Her last day on the job will be Feb. 1.
Under Brewer, Sam's Club has made large strides in e-commerce, says Fortune, but the 650-store chain has struggled to narrow the sales-growth gap with Costco, whose growth rates have been several percentage points higher than Sam's in recent years. Fortune also reports that the average household income of a Costco member is about $120,000, making it much less vulnerable to downturns in consumer spending.
Brewer joined Wal-Mart in 2006 as regional vice president, overseeing operations in Georgia. She climbed the ranks to become division president of the Southeast, and later Wal-Mart East. She became CEO of Sam’s in 2012.
Brewer sparked some controversy last year when she recounted a meeting with a supplier who had no representation of women or people of color on his team during a CNN interview.
“My executive team is very diverse, and I make that a priority. I demand it within my team,” Brewer shared during the interview about diversity. “Just today we met with a supplier, and the entire other side of the table was all Caucasian males. That was interesting.”
The Root contributor Charles Ellison said that the backlash Brewer faced on social media for her comments was “merely the latest in a nauseating trend of mythical white victimology. Rather than a sensible exploration of Brewer’s point, the country club went ballistic, perhaps its buttons pushed to the outer limits of what white privilege could absorb.”
Brewer, No. 19 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women in business list, was one of the few top African-American executives in retail. In fact, black CEOs represent barely 1 percent of Fortune 500 company heads, even as African Americans are a little over 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Read more at Fortune.