Starbucks strengthens technology brew with executive shift

Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:13pm EST
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By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz on Wednesday said he was promoting Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead to the new position of chief operating officer, allowing Schultz to focus on keeping the coffee shop chain ahead of the curve in retail technology including mobile payments.

Alstead will assume oversight of the company's day-to-day operations. Scott Maw, senior vice president of corporate finance, will succeed Alstead as CFO.

Starbucks, already a leader in mobile payments, gift cards, loyalty programs and digital marketing, for years has been finding ways to strengthen results by linking its cafe business and product sales through grocery stores and other retailers.

Schultz said such efforts helped the Seattle-based company outshine other U.S. retailers during the 2013 holiday season, when shopper visits to overall brick-and-mortar stores dropped and online sales increased.

Starbucks' traffic rose 4 percent during the quarter that included the holiday season. The chain also saw a record $1.4 billion loaded onto gift cards during that quarter.

The CEO expects the company's latest move to further strengthen Starbucks' (SBUX.O: Quote) business.

It is an opportunity for Starbucks "to create new channels of revenue and profit outside four walls of stores .. amid a seismic shift" in the way consumers are shopping, Schultz who is also chairman, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Schultz, who will be working closely with executives including Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman and Chief Strategy Officer Matt Ryan, declined to give specifics on the company's plans.   Continued...

A Starbucks store is seen in New York January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Thayer