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As Wal-Mart enters a fiercely competitive holiday season while still hampered by sluggish sales, the company’s board announced Monday that Michael T. Duke, its chief executive, would retire early next year and a longtime executive, C. Douglas McMillon, would replace him. McMillon, 47, president of Wal-Mart International, will take the helm Feb. 1, just after the holiday season, the company said. He was also elected to the board effective immediately and Duke will help with the transition.

“Doug is uniquely positioned to lead our growing global company and to serve the changing customer, while remaining true to our culture and values,” S. Robson Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart’s board, said in a statement. “He has broad experience — with successful senior leadership roles in all of Wal-Mart’s business segments — and a deep understanding of the economic, social and technological trends shaping our world.” Duke, 63, has been the company’s chief executive since 2009 and was vice chairman from 2005 to 2009.

His departure had been rumored for several months, industry watchers said. “The question was not whether, but when,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail consulting and research firm. The choice to name McMillon — who will be the youngest chief executive to lead the company since its founder, Sam Walton — elevates an insider with deep roots in the company.

He joined Wal-Mart in 1984 as a summer associate in a distribution center, then rejoined in 1990. From 2006 to 2009, he was president of Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart’s warehouse stores division.

McMillon’s new salary and compensation package were not revealed Monday. His fiscal 2013 salary was nearly $930,000, while his total compensation was slightly more than $9.5 million, according to the company. Duke’s salary was about $1.3 million, and his total compensation was roughly $20 million. After retiring, he will stay on as an adviser for a year.

“The opportunity to lead Wal-Mart is a great privilege,” McMillon said in the company’s statement. “Our company has a rich history of delivering value to customers across the globe and, as their needs grow and change, we will be there to serve them.”

In recent weeks, Wal-Mart has been busily promoting its holiday deals in one of the most competitive sales seasons in recent memory. Major retailers are already slashing prices and many have been chipping away at the lure of Black Friday deals by offering them even earlier, driven partly by the very short window this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nonetheless, this next few days will probably be among the busiest of the holiday season.