Kroger Appoints McMullen President and Stays the Course

Last Updated Jul 6, 2009 3:04 PM EDT

Continuity is the word at Kroger and the appointment of Rodney McMullen as president and COO more firmly fixes in the corporate suite an executive central to the development of recent company strategy.

McMullen succeeds former president and CEO Don McGeorge, who is retiring. Citigroup analyst Deborah Weinswig, in a research note on McMullen's appointment, pointed to his history of increasing responsibility in the company and deepening involvement in establishing its successful sales and operational strategies as making him ideal for the job:

We believe Rodney will be an excellent successor to Don, particularly given the role he has played in developing Kroger's Customer First and Associate First strategies. Kroger's Customer First strategy has been part of Kroger's success in adapting to changing consumer behavior in the current environment. Rodney McMullen joined Kroger in 1978 as a part-time store clerk. He has since held positions of increasing responsibility, including corporate controller, CFO and executive vice president of strategy, planning and finance.
McMullen has been vice chairman and a high-profile executive taking an active part as a main corporate voice in meetings and conference calls. Even before his appointment as COO, his responsibilities included overseeing strategic initiatives, business planning, customer research, finance, corporate technology, real estate, logistics, fuel initiatives, as well as Kroger convenience and jewelry store operations, Weinswig noted.

In making the new appointment, David Dillon, Kroger's chairman and CEO, emphasized McMullen's role as strategist. "Rodney has played a key role in developing Kroger's Customer First and Associate First strategies," he said

In the company's first quarter conference call on June 23, Dillon noted that the Customer First strategy had been critical in driving results that beat analyst expectations. Kroger's earnings came in at 66 cents per share, beating a 61 cent analyst consensus estimate. Excluding fuel, Kroger sales were up 3.9 percent in the period and identical store sales â€" sales in stores open for a year excluding remodels and relocations â€" were up by 3.1 percent.

In the conference call, as reported by SeekingAlpha, Dillon said:

Our Customer First strategy continues to serve Kroger customers and shareholders well. By paying close attention to the changing needs of today's shoppers, Kroger continues to refine the value proposition that we offer to our customers through a combination of better service, improved product variety and quality, a shopping experience that is appealing and convenient, and lower prices. This approach allows us to report the first quarter sales and earnings results that we are discussing with you today.