Just two months after assuring Advertising Age he had no plans to ride the retirement trail, Wal-Mart chief marketing officer Bob Connolly is to do just that, a company spokeswoman announced Friday.

Connolly, who joined Wal-Mart in 1989, will mosey off into the sunset at the end of 2005 and no replacement has yet been named. A successor will be sought both from within and without the company.

Eulogized the unnamed spokeswoman: "His talent and expertise will certainly be missed as well as his keen sense of being able to balance merchandising with the needs of our customers."

Arkansas-headquartered Wal-Mart is the planet's largest retailer with over 3,600 outlets in the United States plus operations in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.

In its fiscal year to January 31 2004 it posted $256.3 billion in sales - approximately three time the gross domestic product of New Zealand.

Although the arrival of Connolly's successor is apparently not imminent, the tendency of new brooms to sweep clean has likely triggered an outbreak of SPS (sweaty palms syndrome) in Austin, Texas and Kansas City - the respective locations of Wal-Mart ad agencies GSD&M and Bernstein Rein.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff