Stuart Aitken will succeed Joe Grieshaber as The Kroger Cos.’s chief merchant effective Aug. 1, with Yael Cosset moving to take over Aitken’s responsibilities at the retailer’s alternative business and of its 84.51° analytics subsidiary.
The leadership moves, which underscore Kroger’s focus on consumer data and alternate profit streams, come as Grieshaber plans his retirement, effective Aug. 15, after 37 years with the Cincinnati-based retailer.
“Today’s leadership announcements are consistent with our positive track record of strong succession planning and will help us to continue to drive transformation of our business and culture, focusing on speed, action and agility to deliver value for our customers and shareholders,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO said in a statement. “We are greatly appreciative of the unique talents and contributions that each of these leaders has provided to Kroger to create a best-in-class experience for our associates and customers.”
Aitken currently is SVP of alternative business and CEO of 84.51°. As Kroger’s new chief merchandising officer, the Scotland native will be responsible for sales, pricing, planning, promotions, execution, analytics, e-commerce and digital merchandising, andprivate brands. He will also retain responsibility for marketing.
Aitken, a former CEO of dunnhumby USA, joined Kroger as a group VP upon inception of 84.51°, which succeeded dunnhumby as the retailer’s analytics platform. Kroger, at that time, sold its interest in dunnhumby USA. Aitken has also held various leadership roles at Safeway and Michael’s stores. He was promoted to his current role in January 2019.
“Stuart’s outstanding leadership and deep history of putting the customer first through data-driven decisions and personalization will further transform our business for growth,” McMullen said. "Bringing together merchandising and marketing under one leader will strengthen our brand promise of Fresh for Everyone."
Aitken was named a group VP five years ago and has led 84.51° as CEO since its inception in 2015. As the leader of 84.51°, Aitken played a critical role in integrating data-based decision-making into Kroger's merchandising organization. 84.51° combines customer data, predictive analytics and marketing strategies to drive business decisions, sales growth and customer loyalty using a sophisticated, proprietary suite of tools for Kroger and more than 300 consumer-packaged-goods companies in the U.S.
In January 2019, Aitken was promoted to SVP of alternative business, tasked with managing several groups, including 84.51°, Kroger Precision Marketing and Kroger Personal Finance. As head of marketing as well, Aitken guided the company through its Fresh for Everyone brand transformation campaign in November 2019.
Originally from Scotland, Aitken holds a bachelor's degree with distinction from Queen Margaret University and a master's degree in information management from the University of Strathclyde. He serves on the boards of InvenTrust Properties Corp. and the Food Marketing Institute. Aitken is also a member of the Cincinnati Business Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Cosset, also a veteran of dunnhumby, is currently Kroger’s chief information officer. He will continue to lead Kroger Technology & Digital, while assuming responsibility for the alternative profit business portfolio and 84.51°.
“Yael will continue to play an essential role in accelerating our grocery-to-growth business model,” said McMullen. “His exemplary leadership, vision and customer-first obsession to make people’s lives easier using technology and data will help us to create more personalized and engaging shopping experiences and drive more trips.”
In January 2017, Cosset was promoted to group VP and chief digital officer, where he led the company's overall digital growth strategy, e-commerce expansion and Vitacost business. He was named SVP and CIO in May 2019, assuming responsibility for Kroger Technology and blending two talented teams to form Kroger Technology & Digital. Previously, he served as chief commercial officer and chief information officer of 84.51°.
The France-born Cosset held several leadership roles at dunnhumby, including EVP of consumer markets, global chief information officer and CEO of KSS Retail, an enterprise software company. Cosset has been a member of 84.51°'s advisory board for the past three years, helping shape the business’s strategy and direction. In February 2020, Cosset was appointed to the Kohl’s Corp. Board of Directors.
Grieshaber started his career with Kroger in 1983 as a store management trainee in Nashville. Since then, he has held numerous roles, including as a meat merchandiser and district manager for the Michigan division. Later in his career, Grieshaber was promoted to VP of merchandising of the Columbus division then assumed the role of corporate group VP of perishables merchandising and procurement. He was named president of the Dillons division in 2010 and served as president of both the Columbus and Fred Meyer divisions before being promoted to his current role in 2019.
"We thank Joe for his 37 years of service, leading with excellence by developing and uplifting associates and creating and executing innovative, results-oriented strategies," said McMullen. "He's been instrumental to Kroger as an accomplished leader with a passion for people and results, and we wish him all the best in retirement."
Kroger said Grieshaber and his wife Vickie look forward to spending more time with their children and grandchildren, and once safe, they plan to travel more.