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Kroger CIO Chris Hjelm Retires; CDO Will Assume Role

0aaachris-hjelmKroger EVP and CIO Chris Hjelm is retiring, and Yael Cosset, the company’s Chief Digital Officer (CDO), will step into the role on May 1, 2019. Hjelm will remain EVP, reporting to Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen, until his retirement on Aug. 1, 2019.

The decision comes only one month after Kroger CFO J. Michael Schlotman announced he would retire in April. Cosset will assume responsibility for the Kroger Technology functions in addition to his current Kroger Digital portfolio, underscoring the strategic integration of digital and technology initiatives —particularly the Restock Kroger program rolled out in October 2017.

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Hjelm led the charge in developing solutions for Kroger including Scan, Bag, Go, a cashierless checkout technology; Pickup (formerly ClickList), a curbside pickup service; QueVision, Kroger's technology solution designed to speed up checkout wait times; and most recently the company's digital EDGE Shelf technology.

In an interview with Retail TouchPoints in February 2018, Hjelm elaborated on the use of the EDGE Shelf and Scan, Bag, Go technologies, explaining how they have helped the vision of turning a grocery shelf into an interactive platform:

“Not every retailer has the type of R&D or innovative capabilities that we’ve been fortunate enough to build over the years, involving skills like circuit board design and mechanical engineering,” Hjelm said. “We also partner with companies globally to bring solutions like EDGE to market. And as we’ve gone down this path, we’ve had quite a few other retailers that are intrigued with what we’ve been doing, so I think you’ll hear more about the commercialization of our technology. We’re excited about the work, and we think every food retailer would want, for example, higher quality and safer food, which they would get with better temperature controls.”

The latest innovation under Hjelm came in the form of a partnership with Microsoft to pilot a connected store experience in two locations. The connected stores leverage Microsoft Azure technology to combine the EDGE and Scan, Bag, Go technologies and provide a guided, personalized in-store shopping experience.

Cosset became Group VP and CDO in January 2017 and has since led Kroger's digital growth strategy. Prior to his appointment, he had been Chief Commercial Officer and CIO at Kroger's 84.51° analytics and technology division since its inception in 2015.

Kroger Creates Alternative Business VP Position As Company Seeks New Profit Streams

Kroger also promoted Stuart Aitken to Senior VP of Alternative Business, a newly created position. He is slated to begin in the new post on Feb. 3.

At Kroger’s annual investors conference in October, executives said that the company will look to alternative profit streams to help reach its goal of $400 million in operating profit by 2020 under the Restock Kroger initiative.

Earnings from partnerships, media, CPG insights and Kroger Personal Finance are already expanding at a 16% compound annual growth rate, with 28% growth projected through 2020 and 34% projected through 2022.

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