Walmart Latest Marketer to Sever Ties With Paula Deen

Former Food Channel Star Was Mainstay of Retail Giant's Cookware Department

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Walmart has dropped Paula Deen amid the controversy surrounding her admission to past use of racial slurs, her tearful appearance on "The Today Show" apparently not enough to save her place on the shelves of the world's biggest retailer.

Paula Deen
Paula Deen

In a tersely worded statement, Walmart simply said: "We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises and we will not place new orders beyond those already committed. We will work with suppliers to address existing inventories and agreements." The company declined to comment beyond that statement.

Walmart's move comes in the wake of the Food Network canceling Ms. Deen's cooking show last week, followed this week by Smithfield Foods ending its endorsement deal with her and Caesar's announcing it will rebrand four Paula Deen restaurants at casinos nationwide.

Dropping Ms. Deen's brand will leave holes to fill on the retailer's shelves. Walmart.com lists 272 mainly cookware and housewares items carrying the Paula Deen brand.

Walmart does not break out sales for its "Indoor Living" section, where Paula Deen leads Rachael Ray's 111 items on Walmart.com by a considerable margin. The category delivered low-single-digit same-store sales gains last month for Walmart, a bright spot in a generally gloomy picture hurt by cool spring weather. Ms. Ray's items may pick up some of the slack, but Ms. Deen's departure from Walmart could open the door for another celebrity brand.

Ms. Deen's brand was also to adorn a line of a about a dozen prepared-food items set to go into Walmart stores in a major test in the fall from Smithfield, according to a person familiar with the matter. Smithfield's move to end its relationship with Ms. Deen already deep-sixed that launch. A Smithfield spokeswoman didn't respond to requests for comment.

In an interview on NBC's "Today Show" this morning, Ms. Deen at one point broke down in tears and said she would not have fired herself and is not a racist. She acknowledged using the "N word" in the past in a May 17 deposition in a lawsuit from an employee of a restaurant she co-owns in Georgia, and in the interview with "Today" anchor Matt Lauer said she recalled having used it only once.

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