While much of Wal-Mart’s merchandise is available nationally, its store managers have the authority to stock local and regional favorites, too, said Doug Yost.
And that’s part of his learning curve in his new job.
Yost is the new regional general manager for the company’s 57 stores grouped in its Northern Ohio Region.
Yost said he hasn’t yet had time to learn all of the customers’ local favorites or trends, but buying from local producers seems important in Ohio.
“This seems to be an extremely patriotic area. [Customers] are loyal to local farmers and businesses. American-made means a lot,” he said.
Yost, who started his Ohio job in May, has been with Wal-Mart for two years. He moved to Ohio from Denver, where he was director of operations for the Rocky Mountain Region.
Yost has 26 years of experience in retail, including working for Circuit City, Sears and an independent retailer across the country.
But Ohio is not entirely new to Yost; when he was with Sears, his territory included the Northern United States.
Yost said he is getting acclimated to the Wal-Mart operations in Northern Ohio Region, which includes 25 counties and stretches as far south as Stark, Wayne and Columbiana. The 57 stores include 45 Supercenters and more than 17,000 employees.
Yost said he is still learning a lot about the region, the stores and the customers. Wal-Mart doesn’t comment about store sales, but Yost said, “today, as much if not more than ever, customers are interested in value.”
“Customers are the life of our business,” he said. “They want greater assortment and want to be able to save money.” Asked whether Wal-Mart had plans for expansion, Yost said there is no specific goal, but the retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., is always looking for opportunities to add stores.
“We’re trying to focus on getting food where we can,” Yost said of the conversion of many stores to the Supercenter model. “We’d like to be the one-stop-shop.”
Two area stores are expanding to become Supercenters: in Stow and on South Arlington Street. The Stow project is to be done by October, with the Arlington expansion finishing in August.
Wal-Mart does not discuss how much it spends on its store projects.
In addition to overseeing stores in the region, Yost reports to a supervisor in the Great Lakes Division and has communication with the Arkansas headquarters.
Yost’s responsibilities are for the retail stores only; the Sam’s Clubs are in a different division, as are distribution centers for Wal-Mart. (There is a Sam’s distribution center in Canton with 80 employees.)
Yost said that while he would be involved in any decisions about future locations, the real-estate team for Wal-Mart does the site selection and preparation. Asked about the ongoing dispute regarding Wal-Mart’s proposed move from Fairlawn to Copley Township, Yost said he was aware of it. His knowledge of it was from reading stories in the newspapers, he said.
“I don’t see that I will be involved,” he said of the case.
Yost is spending his time visiting stores and meeting employees as he learns about the area. He said his “headquarters” is an office in the back of a Walmart in Aurora. He and his family will be moving to a Cleveland suburb.