Walmart Canada’s CMO moves to the fashion world

As she leaves for the U.S., Sandra Sanderson reflects on how to show customers the other side of a diverse retailer.

Sandra Sanderson is heading for sunnier climes, leaving her role as chief marketing and quality officer of Walmart Canada to join White House Black Market.

She joins the women’s specialty retailer as senior vice president of marketing in its head office in Fort Myers, Fla. The store has more than 400 retail locations and 72 outlets across North America.

Sanderson is following in the footsteps of Shelley Broader, Walmart Canada’s former CEO who was made president of Chico’s (which owns White House Black Market) in 2015. It was Broder who first hired Sanderson at Walmart after Sanderson had spent five years as marketing SVP at Shoppers Drug Mart.

“I have very high regard for Shelley’s leadership and the opportunity to be a part of her organization again was an appealing aspect of this role,” Sandereson says.

Before working at Shoppers Drug Mart, Sanderson was VP and CMO of Danier Leather, an experience she’s happy to draw from in the new role. “Specialty retail allows you to have a more intimate relationship with the customer. You can deliver a really clear brand narrative. I’ve done that before, I’ve enjoyed it.”

When asked about moments of professional pride at Walmart, Sanderson looks back to the retailer’s expansion of its grocery section. In 2015, when Walmart was diversifying and improving its grocery offering with higher quality, Canadian-grown products, it found many customers simply never thought to visit that “fresh” section of the floorplan despite the fact that Walmart had been been in the grocery space for years.

While Walmart had high consideration on household items where price serves as the prime decision maker (like diapers and toys), food offered a new wrinkle because while “price is important, but quality is also very important,” Sanderson says. “We had to really raise the perception of the quality of our fresh produce, meat and bakery goods.”

The resulting integrated campaign, “Discover Another Side of Walmart” started drawing people across the floorplan by tackling that perception head on with a message of quality over quantity.

Sales and market share has responded. In the quarter when the campaign launched, Nielsen data tracked Walmart’s Canada’s share in food, consumables and wellness growing 60 basis points. It took until the beginning of 2017 for that momentum to truly slow as competitors began cutting food prices to stay competitive.

“That campaign took a customer insight around how they actually thought of us, and it actually showed that other side.”