The executive credited with crafting the success
of Banana Republic stores and the Gap's Web site will take the helm
of Wal-Mart.com, the Internet arm of the giant retail chain that
has struggled to find its way online.
Jeanne Jackson was named Wednesday as CEO of Wal-Mart.com.
She is charged with building the company into an online
powerhouse and creating a site attractive enough to woo Wal-Mart
customers many of whom have never shopped online to the
Jackson, 48, is one of the best-known executives in the retail
business today. She started in the industry in 1978 and has worked
for some of the nation's biggest chains, including Federated
Department Stores, Saks Fifth Avenue and Victoria's Secret.
Since taking the helm of Banana Republic in 1996, she has built
it into a chic clothing chain, filled with trendy fashions. For the
past two years, she also has been in charge of the online
operations at the Gap Inc., the parent company of Banana Republic,
Gap and Old Navy stores.
Her efforts have helped make Gap into a retailing giant. The
company's sales rose 29 percent to $11.64 billion in 1999, on top
of a 39 percent gain in 1998.
Jackson was ranked 41st on Fortune Magazine's list of the 50
most powerful women in corporate America in 1999.
"I think this is a big loss for the Gap and a very triumphant
gain for Wal-Mart," said Kurt Barnard, a retail consultant who
runs Barnard's Retail Trend Report in Upper Montclair, N.J.
But Barnard and other analysts are now counting on Jackson to
quickly breathe new life into Wal-Mart.com. Since its launch in
1996, the Web site has failed to keep pace with its Web-only rivals
such as Amazon.com and eToys.
Wal-Mart.com was relaunched in January, stocking more than
600,000 items and offering a wide array of services, such as travel
reservations. But many people complain it still lags behind the
"This appointment tells me that Wal-Mart is still not happy
with its new incarnation of its Web site and it is aware that it
needs to do something to get it up to speed," Barnard said.
Preston Dodd, a senior analyst at New York-based Internet
research firm Jupiter Communications, said Jackson's success may be
based on how quickly she can understand the Wal-Mart customer.
"I'd say the biggest challenge ahead of her is whether she can
figure out the Wal-Mart culture and really figure out how to bring
that culture into the Web site," Dodd said. "Wal-Mart is a much
different brand than Banana Republic."
Since January, the site has been run by Wal-Mart.com Inc., an
independent company formed by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's
biggest retailer based in Bentonville, Ark., and Accel Partners, a
Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
Wal-Mart.com Inc. is based in Palo Alto, Calif., and has its own
board of directors and management team. Jackson will sit on the
Besides enhancing the Web site, Wal-Mart.com is also working
with America Online Inc. to develop an Internet service provider
and offer discounted Web access to people who currently may not
have an affordable phone hookup in towns near its 2,500 stores. The
name and price of the ISP have not yet been released.