Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Obits Distribution Locations Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Crime Puzzles Today's Photos

PROFILE | Andrea Albright helps people grow, both at Walmart and in Girl Scouts

Andrea Albright grew up in a Walmart family with her father working for the retailer. Now she leads large teams of people in finding private brands for the company. It’s a huge responsibility she does by April Wallace | March 5, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
“I have an extreme amount of pride, having been in the inside of Walmart, to see what she’s doing now,” says father Drew Albright about daughter Andrea. “The amount of time in those responsibilities to train and teach and keep involved in the community, and how she manages her time between life, family and work, she does much better than I did.” (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

Andrea Albright was a brand-new third-grade student at Thomas Jefferson Elementary when she joined Girl Scouts for the first time.

Her family had moved around a lot to that point, but with her dad's then-new appointment at Walmart, they knew the family would be anchored for a longer time. She joined the iconic girls-and-women-centric organization for a couple of years to gain community. The club allowed her to be more social.

Now her daughter Mackenzie is in a local troop herself, earning badges and writing her first business plan much like Albright did when she was younger.

Albright's own business plans are much grander and complex these days. As a rising woman in business, she is one of Fortune's Most Powerful Women in Next Gen and is No. 4 in Procurement Magazine's Top 100 Women in Procurement. As Executive Vice President of Sourcing for Walmart, she leads large teams in finding all private brand products for the company.

That encompasses a little of everything -- from car tires to bananas, she says -- for Walmart U.S. and Canada, and it includes many things you might recognize on shelves, such as Great Value and Equate.

Making that happen means Albright leads groups that sometimes total up to 1,200 workers. It also means keeping odd hours, her work day sometimes beginning at 5:30 a.m. or ending at 7 p.m. to ensure she can keep in touch with various Walmart offices all over the world, like in Bangalore. Each day is a little bit different.

"It's a huge responsibility that I don't take lightly," Albright says. "It's probably one of the most rewarding experiences. What I enjoy most about my job is leading people and having a positive impact on how they view their experience at Walmart, how they view their capacity and what they're capable of."

That mentoring part of Albright's career is what gives her the most energy and what stands out to others.

"Andrea is bright, curious, engaged and engaging," says Judith McKenna, CEO of Walmart International. "In a short time, she has learned the business, built global relationships and created a high degree of trust and transparency. What I really love, though, is her focus on people. She's motivated by developing and growing others, and that shines through, not just for her part of the organization but much more broadly."

McKenna says it's Albright's authenticity, clear strategic direction and her habit of being a champion for her team that keep her consistently inspiring the people she leads.

"She's an exceptional mentor for so many across Walmart -- women and men," McKenna says. "You see it every day in the steady stream of people who 'pop over' to see her in the International building."

Throughout her professional life, Albright has also prioritized coaching girls and women outside of Walmart by remaining connected with the Girl Scouts. She served on its board of directors since 2013 and recently left that post with the regional organization that spans Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas to join the national board.

"Andrea believes firmly that every girl deserves a Girl Scout experience and should be afforded one," says Dawn Prasifka, CEO of Girl Scouts, Diamonds. "We have benefited directly from her exceptional business acumen. ... we have grown in tremendous ways with her at our helm."

During Albright's Girl Scout tenure, Prasifka says, the region has been among national leaders in areas of membership growth and volunteer satisfaction, and Albright has spoken up in national conversations surrounding issues of key importance for Girl Scouts and its future.

Now, Albright is introducing a brand-new fundraiser that she helped form -- Camp 479 will take place April 28 at the Barn at the Springs. It's anti-gala and more reminiscent of Girl Scout activities, just all grown up. It will have roasting marshmallows, live music and outdoor activities, as well as ax throwing and a live auction.

"We wanted to have an event that brought the core of Girl Scouting to life," Albright says. The event has been in the works since 2020, and Albright and the board members are excited to see their vision realized. "Girl Scouts is the largest women and girls organization, and the impact they have on creating opportunities for girls ... is incredibly powerful."

Albright has always loved the troop events, the community aspect and the cookie sales, but her favorite contribution from the last 10 years of volunteerism was bringing the region back to the core mission and values. She takes pride in re-centering the organization's strategy, vision and impact to put it in a better position for longer term sustainability.


Before settling in Northwest Arkansas, Albright, her two brothers and her parents moved frequently, primarily in western Kansas, due to her father's work. He began as a cart pusher for Walmart, but worked his way up into operations.

From the very beginning, Andrea Albright was her own person.

"Andrea was always pretty determined and strong-willed," says her father, Drew Albright. He describes her as a very honest person who likes to win and always challenges herself to do more. "She never met anything she didn't feel like she could accomplish. She's thought for herself, (she has) her integrity. She's had a strong understanding of right and wrong from an early age."

Drew learned quickly that you wouldn't ever want to tell Andrea that she couldn't do something. That just made it a fun challenge she was sure to take on. That's also how he discovered that she wasn't afraid of anything.

Over the years, she did whatever he did -- learning to mow the grass, rewiring lighting fixtures, changing oil in the truck, planting trees, shrubs or flower beds.

"She was very independent," Drew Albright says. "With two brothers, she was outnumbered, but she was never on the losing side of that. She was an equal."

She was also very active, playing basketball every year until high school graduation, along with softball and running cross country and track. Running is still a part of her life, a tool she uses to clear her mind.

In the early elementary years, Albright didn't feel like an exceptional student, but she loved history and reading. She credits her third grade teacher, Mrs. Massey, for pointing out her strengths and building her confidence to realize she was smarter than she was giving herself credit for.

Andrea leaned on those conversations with Massey and learned to stop beating herself up and believe in her abilities. That thinking continued to support her later in life as she earned her MBA from the University of Arkansas.

As young Andrea began to consider the life she would have, she applied to a few colleges, including Florida State, Michigan and Kansas State University.

"When I was 17, all I could think was that I wanted to create my own life," she says. "Bentonville was amazing, but I wanted a different experience than what I'd had."

She chose Kansas State, where she applied to be a psychology major. Its campus was just far enough to get away but just close enough if she needed to get home. Once there, the reputable apparel and textile program caught her eye and she pivoted to that.

After the first semester, Albright was tempted to go back home. She felt like she didn't really know anybody by that point. Andrea turned to her dad for advice.

"He had strong convictions around personal accountability and doing more than you thought possible," she says. "He was my guiding force through high school and college, good around 'If you're not trying your hardest, why do it?' He's got a strong work ethic, conviction and values."

Looking back, Drew Albright thinks Andrea had a lot more to face than a little homesickness. She was 17 and at the university only three weeks when Sept. 11, 2001, happened, he says. It must have been unnerving to have military marching across your campus, a reminder of their close proximity to Fort Riley.

"The real world sunk in a little," he says. It was all new and came with a bit of uneasiness, but "she was one of her own worst critics, harder on herself than anybody else."

Albright stuck it out and soon found a support system and community.

She built exponentially on that momentum, taking home and apparel internships during many of her Christmas holidays and summer breaks. One was with Debenham's international division in the U.K. that supported other countries like Saudi Arabia and Sweden in their franchise businesses. Albright also found work with a sourcing company in Taipei for home and hardlines.

"Those were what set me on the path of retail," she says. "It showed me that the way Americans do it isn't the way everybody does it ... and gave me different perspectives on people, solving problems and empathy."


Andrea Albright might have stayed on that international track, were it not for a different kind of offer made to her after her graduation from college in 2005. She got engaged, and since her fiance made it clear he would not be interested in moving to another country, Albright searched for positions stateside.

She applied to Target and Walmart. In July 2005, Andrea got offers from both companies within an hour of each other.

It was a tough call. Target's low cost, high quality brands were gaining popularity. But at the time, Walmart's clothing brands, while also low cost, didn't yet have the same reputation for quality.

"They were seen as low quality ... with brands and styling that we weren't proud of," Albright says. While turning it over, she realized her choice maybe wasn't necessarily an obvious one. "I could have a bigger impact at Walmart. I had never wanted to work for Walmart, but it's where I could go and have an impact and help the most."

As a brand new associate, Albright worked in ladies' apparel only a couple of months before being asked to move to boys' apparel. A year into that, she landed a Buyer One job and worked with seasonal, licensed school uniforms, coats and licensed T-shirts.

She was five months into her gig as Buyer Two when she became pregnant with her daughter Mackenzie, an experience that she describes as exciting and terrifying.

Terrifying, in part, because her marriage had started to fall apart. The couple had met in college and halfway into the pregnancy it was clear that the marriage was over. Due to state law that dictates that a divorce cannot be finalized if one is pregnant, Albright had to wait. They filed for divorce when their daughter was a week old.

Meanwhile, the Walmart apparel office in New York was ramping up.

As her maternity leave came to an end, Albright got a call to join Walmart's apparel team in the Big Apple. Mackenzie was only three months old, so Andrea gave some serious thought about what it would be like to be a single mom in New York. She took the job despite knowing it would be challenging not to have family nearby.

"You don't realize how strong you are until you have to be," Albright says. "It set a path forward on resiliency, that if I was going to have a great career, it wasn't just about me, it was about my daughter as well."

Arriving in New York, Albright and her daughter spent the first few months in a walk-up. Then, through friends, she found a reliable nanny who could stay with Mackenzie overnight whenever work travel called.

Andrea had recently met Ann Theile at Walmart, another career-driven woman who got called to the New York office, and the two became fast friends.

"I admired how seamlessly she handled being a new mother while making a big move," Theile says, recalling how much fun it was being small town girls exploring the city together. "When Andrea sets her mind to something, it happens. We like to get things done ... so having a friend that shares that drive and motivation is comforting."

About a year into living in New York, Albright was out with friends for Halloween. She was dressed as a Sheriff when she struck up a conversation with a guy dressed as one of the men who do the running of the bulls.

Albright was drawn to how smart and kind he was. The two had a great conversation, keeping up with each other intellectually. When they met up for their first date, both arrived off the subway not quite knowing who they were looking for, since they had only ever seen each other in costume.

They went to dinner at Cafe Loup in lower Manhattan and sat talking for more than two hours, focusing in on each other even though Steve Buschemi and Mark Boone Junior were seated at the table behind them.

"She was so much fun to talk to," says Patrick Bannon, Albright's husband. "She had a witty sense of humor and a great personality. In a city of millions of people, it's crazy to think I was able to meet my future wife in a bar crawl, dressed in costume on Halloween night, in New York City of all places."

It was at the same restaurant, Cafe Loup, that Bannon proposed a couple years later, just as the New York office was closing. Knowing that Arkansas law at the time prevented non-married couples from cohabitating with children in the household, they chose to get married at the courthouse only a couple weeks later.

They married with friends and family in tow, and since there were another 100 some-odd people waiting in line to do the same thing, the officiant bluntly asked them to wrap it up already and move along. So they took the celebration back to Cafe Loup, of course.

By early 2012, Albright and her new family were back in Arkansas, where she took on baby apparel and roles with private brands at Walmart. She learned women's apparel in all its complexity with high fashion, quick-turn trends and core basics for every age demographic, color and fabric.

Albright began leading people, first with teams of five, then 26 and more, learning the business of getting all those different personalities to work together.

She started working in intimates apparel and soon gave birth to her son, Liam. Walmart was undergoing a big transformation at the time and the chief merchant asked Andrea to run Human Resources.

For two weeks, Albright staved him off, saying that it wasn't her background or skillset. She felt like it was a huge risk to take it on. At the same time, Andrea knew it would also be a huge opportunity to see merchandising in a way she hadn't seen before.

Albright finally accepted, taking them up on that new level of trust the company showed in her and spent two years on that learning experience before facing another crossroads. She could go back to New York, or head up food merchandising. Andrea chose the later.

It was fun learning the piece of Walmart that makes up so much of their business, she says, and at the same time she helped with the transition of beginning alcohol sales. The displays of wine and beer in stores now are something her team was responsible for creating.

Once she was named a vice president, Albright got to experiment more, working on food product flavors for snacks and bourbon. She liked harnessing nostalgia for the '90s and random ideas from social media into something she could put on the shelf.

Now her work stems from establishing trust, value and resiliency with customers through quality products that are sourced the right way, Albright says. She spends much of her time making sure the equation of value -- price point divided by quality -- is always right.

"I have an extreme amount of pride, having been in the inside of Walmart, to see what she's doing now," says father Drew Albright. "The amount of time in those responsibilities to train and teach and keep involved in the community, and how she manages her time between life, family and work, she does much better than I did."

Since moving further up in the ranks, Andrea has stayed extremely active not just on the Walmart campus but opening other businesses, including four Airbnbs and a Drybar business with her friend Theile, who is now her operating partner.

"We always said we wanted to build something for our children," Theile says. "We wanted to do something our families can be proud of."

But for the family, it's not just the titles and businesses that bring them pride. It's her essence.

"I appreciate everything Andrea does for our family, the community and anyone who asks for help," Bannon says. "Regardless of her schedule, she will always find the time to help someone or (an) organization in need."

April Wallace is Associate Features Editor/Profiles & Our Town. She can be reached by email at [email protected]

  photo  "You don't realize how strong you are until you have to be," Albright says. "It set a path forward on resiliency, that if I was going to have a great career, it wasn't just about me, it was about my daughter as well." (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

Andrea Nicole Albright

Date and place of birth: Sept. 17, 1983, Pittsburg, Kan.

Family: Husband Patrick Bannon, children Mackenzie, 14 and Liam, 8

Education: Bachelor's in apparel and textiles from Kansas State University, MBA from the University of Arkansas (2015) and master's in human resources and workforce development from the University of Arkansas (2020)

A typical Saturday night for me includes: Dinner with my family and a couple other families at one of our houses, usually includes board games, especially Rummikub.

My fantasy dinner would include: Abraham, Ruth Bader Ginsbeurg, and Tupac Shakur

What I'm most proud of: My family and their hearts …. I love that they love Northwest Arkansas, the community, the people and their passion to be a part of making it a great place for everyone.

A guilty pleasure of mine: McDonald's French fries (or hash browns if it's too early).

My favorite place in Northwest Arkansas: Beaver Lake.

Something everyone should try at least once: Something new that you're afraid to try. Some of my favorite foods (sushi, oysters) and activities (skiing) are ones I was initially skeptical of.

My most unusual talent: Making balloon animals.

When I have an hour of free time, I spend it: reading or running.


Print Headline: Andrea Albright


Sponsor Content