The Kroger Co. has announced its technology leadership succession plans in support of Restock Kroger.
Christopher Hjelm, executive vice president and chief information officer, will be succeeded by Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer, effective May 1. Hjelm will remain executive vice president, reporting to chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen, until his retirement in August.
Cosset will assume responsibility for the Kroger Technology function in addition to his current Kroger Digital portfolio ― underscoring the strategic integration of digital and technology initiatives to deliver customers anything, anytime, anywhere.
"Yael and Chris have worked collaboratively to support Kroger's technology evolution," said McMullen. "Consistent with Kroger's history of thoughtful succession planning, Chris and Yael have a deliberate transition plan to ensure continuity while successfully delivering on our Restock Kroger technology initiatives to redefine the grocery customer experience."
Cosset was named group vice president and chief digital officer in January 2017, where he has been successfully leading Kroger's digital growth strategy. He previously served as chief commercial officer and chief information officer of 84.51° since its inception in 2015. Prior to this, he held several leadership roles at dunnhumby, including executive vice president of consumer markets, global chief information officer, and chief executive officer of KSS Retail, a global enterprise software provider of price modeling and optimization solutions for retailers worldwide.
"Yael is driving Kroger's business forward in support of Restock Kroger," said McMullen. "He is a passionate advocate for applying technology, innovation and customer science to make a difference in the lives of our customers. Yael has the qualifications, skills and strategic mindset to ensure technology and digital are key accelerators of Kroger's future success."
Kroger Creates Alternative Business Lead
In a separate release Kroger announced that it is promoting Stuart Aitken to the newly created role of senior vice president, Alternative Business.
In this role, Aitken will assume oversight for Kroger's successful existing alternative profit businesses, including 84.51° and Kroger Personal Finance, and also lead the development of a full portfolio of alternative businesses to support the transformation of Kroger's growth model. Aitken will continue to serve as chief executive officer of 84.51° and oversee Kroger's marketing function.
"Stuart is a dynamic leader with a proven track record of value creation in businesses that further monetize Kroger's successful core," said McMullen. "Throughout his time at 84.51° and as a member of Kroger's senior leadership team, Stuart has been instrumental to the successful development and growth of the alternative profit stream portfolio. That portfolio makes the transformation of Kroger's growth model possible, by developing successful asset-light, margin rich businesses."
Aitken has been group vice president since 2015 and has been responsible for leading Kroger's data analytics subsidiary, 84.51°, as its chief executive officer since its inception. In addition, Aitken has helped transform Kroger's marketing efforts as chief marketing officer since 2017. Prior to this, he served as the chief executive officer of dunnhumbyUSA. Aitken has over 15 years of marketing, academic and technical experience across a variety of industries, and held various leadership roles with other companies, including Michael's Stores and Safeway, Inc.
Kroger's is working to transform the traditional retail growth model through its Restock Kroger efforts. Kroger has outlined on-going initiatives to redefine the grocery customer experience and strengthen the Kroger ecosystem by reducing costs and investing the savings in associates, technology, and price to grow units, traffic and share.
At Kroger's 2018 Investor Day, Aitken delivered the company's vision for alternative profit streams, presenting the business case for leveraging stores, logistics and data assets to create incremental new profit streams, which, in turn, drive investments to further redefine the customer experience. In this way, Kroger's new growth model will be a virtuous cycle.
Technology and digital are fundamental elements of Restock Kroger, Kroger's three-year plan to create shareholder value by serving America through food inspiration and uplift. Kroger's digital and technology platforms play a key role in enabling Kroger to provide customers anything, anytime, anywhere. Developing talent at all levels is also a critical driver to ensure Kroger's successful transformation from traditional grocery to growth company.