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Kroger Promotes Aitken To SVP, Alternative Business; Reveals Tech Succession Plan

Kroger More Than Pink Walk

In support of Restock Kroger, The Kroger Co. has appointed Stuart W. Aitken to the newly created role of SVP, alternative business, effective Feb. 3.

In this role, Aitken will assume oversight for Kroger’s successful existing alternative profit businesses, including 84.51° and Kroger Personal Finance (KPF), 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 CEO 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 Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “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 was elected group VP in 2015 and has been responsible for leading Kroger’s data analytics subsidiary, 84.51°, as its CEO since its inception, also in 2015. In addition, he has been helping transform Kroger’s marketing efforts as chief marketing officer since 2017. Prior to this, he served as the CEO of dunnhumbyUSA since 2010. Aitken has more than 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. 

Originally from Scotland, Aitken holds a bachelor’s degree with distinction and a master’s degree in information management from Queen Margaret University and University of Strathclyde. He serves on the boards of InvenTrust Properties Corp. and the Food Marketing Institute. He also is a member of the business advisory council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland – Cincinnati.

As outlined at Kroger’s 2017 Investor Day, the company hopes to transform the traditional retail growth model through its Restock Kroger efforts. Kroger 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.

Kroger announces technology leadership succession plan

In other Kroger news, the company has revealed new technology leadership succession plans, also in support of Restock Kroger.

Christopher T. Hjelm, EVP and CIO, will be succeeded by Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer, effective May 1. Hjelm will remain EVP, reporting to Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen, until his retirement on Aug. 1. 

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, says Kroger.

“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.”

Hjelm to retire as EVP and CIO

“Chris has been a key member of the senior leadership team at Kroger for over a decade, playing a transformational role in making Kroger a respected technology company,” said McMullen. “We are grateful for his leadership during this important time in our company’s history. We know Chris will enjoy spending more time with his new granddaughter and close-knit family in retirement, while continuing to pursue his on-going entrepreneurial technology interests.”

Hjelm joined Kroger as SVP and CIO in 2005, after an extensive career in technology, including key senior executive roles at FedEx, Orbitz and eBay. He was promoted to EVP in 2015. 

Hjelm’s passion for technology and innovation were instrumental in developing solutions including Scan, Bag, Go; ClickList; QueVision, Kroger’s technology solution to speed up checkout wait times; and most recently the company’s digital Edge Shelf technology. 

Cosset promoted to SVP and CIO

“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.”

Cosset was elected group VP 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 EVP of consumer markets, global CIO, and CEO of KSS Retail, a global enterprise software provider of price modeling and optimization solutions for retailers worldwide. 

Originally from France, Cosset graduated from the Classes Preparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles (Lycee Camille Guerin – Poitiers, France) with a major in mathematics, and earned a master of science from the business school of the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Chambery (INSEEC – Chambery, France).

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