FINANCE

Kroger in stock buyback

BY Staff Writer

Cincinnati — The Kroger Co. said Thursday that it will buy back up to $1 billion of its shares. The repurchase program replaces its existing plan, which had roughly $2 million remaining.

Kroger also declared a regular quarterly dividend of 16.5 cents per share, payable June 1 to shareholders of record May 15.
During the last four quarters, Kroger has used its strong free cash flow to return more than $928 million to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends.

Since January 2000, Kroger has returned approximately $10 billion to shareholders through share repurchases.

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CFOs on board with retail’s omnichannel agenda

BY CSA STAFF

Finance executives who participated in professional services firm BDO’s annual CFO survey expect 8.2% growth in online sales this year and not surprisingly plan to increase investments in mobile capabilities.

Mobile and online sales will continue to drive growth for retailers in 2014, the firm said. However, now that e-commerce has firmly taken root in the retail industry, growth is beginning to stabilize. As a result, about 64% of CFOs said online sales will grow in the coming year, a figure below the 74% who expressed that sentiment the prior year.

“After a banner year of e-commerce and m-commerce growth in 2013, retailers largely expect these platforms to keep delivering big returns in the year ahead,” said Natalie Kotlyar, a partner in the retail and consumer products at BDO USA. “But safeguarding this future growth requires retailers to invest across channels in order to deliver a safe, seamless and efficient experience for shoppers. All the moving parts — mobile apps, websites, supply chain IT systems, brick-and-mortar — need to be carefully coordinated for companies to hold their own in this fiercely competitive landscape.”

To achieve the 8.2% growth CFO project, 34% of those surveyed are focusing primarily on developing their e-commerce and mobile commerce platforms as many companies attempt to streamline and integrate multiple channels in order to compete with major players like Amazon. Along with e-commerce and mobile commerce, CFOs are also improving their merchandise assortment (28%) and expanding within the U.S. (24%).

The rise of online retailing has also introduced new risks for retailers, according to BDO. With recent high-profile data security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus, it’s no surprise that a plurality of CFOs (27%) said they will invest the most capital in 2014 in IT systems and technology. Meanwhile, 18% of CFOs plan to invest the most capital in e-commerce channels, and 12% said that mobile application development will encompass their largest investment, with a full 40% planning to increase their investment in mobile overall.

The findings are from BDO’s eighth annual Retail Compass Survey which included 100 CFO’s from leading retailers. The survey was conducted in January 2014.

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Tractor Supply appoints former beauty exec as information chief

BY CSA STAFF

Tractor Supply Company has named former Ulta Beauty executive Robert D. Mills as SVP and chief information officer, succeeding James Callison. Mills will also serve on the company’s executive committee.

Callison, who informed the company last year about his plans to retire, will remain on-board for an undisclosed amount of time while the transition is completed.

"We are very pleased to welcome Rob to the Tractor Supply team. Information technology continues to be an important area of both investment and opportunity for our company. Rob’s extensive retail experience in strategic technology planning, e-commerce, and operations leadership qualify him as the ideal fit to lead the continued development of our technology systems and platform. Additionally, we would like to thank James Callison for his years of service and dedication to Tractor Supply and his assistance through the transition. All of us at Tractor Supply congratulate James on his impending retirement."

Mills was most recently the chief information officer for Ulta Beauty. From 2005 to 2011, he was VP, chief information officer for the online business unit at Sears Holdings, where he began as an information technology customer relationship leader in 2001. Prior to 2001, Mills held roles at Allstate Insurance, Rockwell International Telecommunications Division and Household Finance Corporation.

Tractor Supply Company operates 1,276 stores in 48 states.

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