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Balbale joins CVS as chain’s top merchant

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NEW YORK — Musab Balbale has left his position as vice president and general manager of Wal­mart beauty to take the top merchant role at CVS Health. Starting at the end of the month, he will fill the post that has been vacant since senior vice president and chief merchant George Coleman left in July. Coleman had been responsible for CVS’ front-store business, including strategy, product selection and assortments, pricing, promotion, personalization, omnichannel, and store design. Components of the front-store business included consumer health care, beauty and personal care, consumables, general merchandise, store brands, and alternative formats.

“After nearly six incredible years, I am leaving Walmart,” Balbale wrote in a LinkedIn post. “I am immensely grateful for all the opportunities these years have provided me. From the infectious energy of Marc Lore at to the scale and ambition of Walmart eCommerce; from a single digital e-commerce channel to the complexities of integrated omni-retail, I have been privileged to work alongside passionate, driven and smart retail disrupters. For any of you that have the opportunity to work for Steve Breen, Kieran Shanahan or Latriece Watkins — take it! I promise you they will make you better.

“These last two years, supporting Walmart’s omni-beauty business, have been particularly thrilling. I am proud of the speed with which the Walmart beauty team is transforming the business — and in turn shifting the narrative of Walmart beauty. I have no doubt that they will continue their ambitious trajectory, and I will be celebrating their success from afar.

Balbale, who joined Walmart when the company acquired, is credited with remaking the discounter’s beauty business in the past year and a half by bringing in new brands that attract a wider audience and a more diverse group of consumers, including younger shoppers who previously hadn’t ventured into Walmart’s beauty aisles.

“By mirroring the diversity of our customers, we are better able to offer an assortment that meets all of their needs,” Balbale told MMR in an interview last year when he was named one of the publication’s “People Who Made a Difference.”

That goal was also reflected in the team Balbale built to execute Walmart’s blueprint for building beauty into a destination. Under his direction, Walmart brought in leaders from top brands, beauty merchants and professional beauty suppliers. “We’ve been focused on building a diverse team,” he said. “This includes not only demographic diversity but also diversity of experiences. We have brought together merchants with incredible Walmart experiences and also beauty leaders from the industry.”

To better reflect how shoppers buy beauty, Balbale also fused e-commerce and store teams to capture synergistic opportunities, a move reflected by his own career path. “My role evolved from focusing on e-commerce to leading beauty across both stores and digital channels,” he said. “This reflects how customers shop, and it has allowed us to serve the customer across their full customer journey. In particular, e-commerce prepared me to understand this digital journey, and it has taught me to always ask how we attract and retain customers to Walmart.”