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Walmart looks into retail’s future with Store No. 8 innovation gala

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Virtual reality was the star of Walmart’s Store No. 8 inaugural innovation gala — an event that exhibited how the technology will shape retail shopping.

Store No. 8, Walmart’s technology incubator focused on ideas that will transform the future of commerce, held its first innovation gala on Wednesday. Store No. 8 works with startups that specialize in areas that include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence. This event however, gave put the spotlight on the value of VR.

The gala, which took place at a private residence in Hollywood Hills, California, invited top brands, technology companies and venture capitalists to see how VR will impact how customers shop in the future. Each exhibit encompassed Store No 8, Thrive Global and Accenture’s vision for the future of VR.

The concepts came from five early-stage VR developers that Store No 8 chose from an open call it hosted over the summer. These winners received funding to develop a proof of concept for an immersive retail experience. Guided by executives from Store No. 8, and brands like Modcloth, Bonobos and Rebecca Minkoff, their ideas were brought to life at the gala.

“Innov8 is our opportunity to support and elevate the incredible pioneers of virtual reality who share our mission to explore nascent innovations that will emerge not in coming years but over the next decade,” said Katie Finnegan, principal of Store No 8. “During this process, our five Innov8ers have uncovered radical new technologies, approaches and applications across the virtual retail experience, that we know will play a major role in driving commerce forward at a time when technology influences all aspects of consumers’ lives.”

Among the winners highlighted at the event were a 3D image solution from 8i that enables customers to interact with a Bonobos Guide, select virtual shirts from a rack and understand fit on a hologram model. A 3D image solution from Fyusion created curated Modcloth products in a manner that gives shoppers more insight into merchandise before they make a purchase. A company called Obsess recreated a virtual Rebecca Minkoff store.

Innov8’s board of judges included Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, Marc Carrel-Billiard, senior managing director of Accenture Labs, Jason Welsh, managing director, Accenture Interactive, Kirsten Green, general partner of Forerunner Ventures, Tipatat Chennavasin, general partner of the Virtual Reality Fund, Jeremy Welt, President, Invisible Robot Corp., Store No 8’s Finnegan, and Marc Lore, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. eCommerce and founder, Jet.com.

The event was sponsored by key brands and organizations in the technology and retail industries, including HP, Silicon Valley Bank, and Microsoft.

To read more details about the highlighted VR innovations, click here.

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Seasoned Albertsons vet takes the helm at Safeway division

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Jim Perkins, Albertsons EVP retail operations and special projects and president of its Acme stores divsion, has assumed command of the Safeway Eastern division as well, according to a report in the Washington Business Journal earlier this week.

Former Safeway president Dan Valenzuela "left the company to pursue other opportunities," the Journal reported.

Perkins has spent the last 30 years as a pacesetting leader in the grocery industry. Jim’s passion for the grocery business began in 1982 at Albertson’s as a courtesy clerk, and he developed into a key leader for them in several areas of the country. He served as VP Operations for Albertsons, and director of operations for Albertsons LLC’s Southern Division.

Perkins left Albertsons and joined Giant Foods as a regional VP, but returned to Albertsons as the president of Acme Markets in 2012. He was named EVP operations, East Region in April 2015, and returned to lead Acme Markets in June 2017.

Perkins is expected to re-invigorate the Safeway store base, the Journal reported.

Perkins received his Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science, Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.

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Kroger names two new division presidents

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — Kroger earlier this week named Pam Matthews president of the company's central division and Suzy Monford as president of the QFC division.

Monford replaces Matthews, formerly president of Kroger's QFC division, succeeds Katie Wolfram, who is retiring. Monford is assuming the role vacated by Matthew.

"We are grateful for Katie's nearly 40 years of dedicated service to our associates and customers, and we are excited to have Pam and Suzy take on these indispensable leadership roles in our company," stated Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO Kroger. "Both leaders bring successful and distinguished retail experience to the roles and will help with the execution of the Restock Kroger Plan that will bring valuable changes to our customers, associates, communities, and shareholders."

Wolfram will retire from the company after 38 years of distinguished service, effective Nov.  4, the company reported. "Katie has accomplished much in her career with Kroger and has always been passionate about creating an inclusive and diverse work culture," McMullen said. "She has been a valued leadership partner across the company and Central division. We truly appreciate the many contributions Katie has made to Kroger, and we wish her and her family the best in retirement."

Wolfram was named to her current role in 2016 and has been spearheading an aggressive growth strategy in the Central division since joining the region as VP merchandising in 2014. In the last two years, the company has invested nearly $329 million in the central Indiana market, adding five new Marketplace stores and 12 new gas stations, remodeling and/or expanding 14 existing stores, building a regional training center and adding more than 1,400 new jobs to the region. The Central Division operates 138 stores with more than 19,500 associates.

Wolfram began her career with Kroger in 1979 as an assistant store manager in the Cincinnati-Dayton division. She went on to serve in several leadership positions at Kroger's corporate office in Cincinnati and with Kroger's Manufacturing division. In 2005, she moved to Denver to join the King Soopers division as VP merchandising, before joining the Central division in 2014 to serve in the same role.

Wolfram was a leader for the first Cultural Council, a team development and culture-building group, started at the corporate office, and she started the Reach Higher initiative in Kroger Manufacturing. Additionally, Ms. Wolfram represented Kroger as a leader in the Network of Executive Women, Denver.

In retirement, she plans to move back to Denver to be near her daughter and grandson.

Pam Matthews Promoted to President of Central Division
Matthews, currently president of the QFC division, succeeds Wolfram as president of Kroger's Central division, effective Oct. 23. Matthews started with the company in 1980 in the Fred Meyer division. She has held a variety of leadership roles in her 25-year career with Fred Meyer, including store management, training, corporate brand development, and merchandising for deli-bakery, drug-general merchandise and grocery.

Matthews also served as director of deli-bakery merchandising and director of floral merchandising and procurement at Kroger's corporate office in Cincinnati before being promoted to VP merchandising for the Central division in 2006. She moved to the Delta division as VP merchandising in 2014 and was named VP operations in 2015. She was named president of the QFC division in 2016.

Suzy Monford Named President of QFC Division
Monford joins the company to succeed Matthews as president of QFC, effective Oct. 23. Monford is the former CEO of Andronico's Community Markets, a Bay Area chain acquired by Albertsons in early 2017.

Prior to Andronico's, Monford was the head of innovation for Woolworths Supermarkets in Australia, after spending 10 years as an executive for H-E-B Central Market and H-E-B Grocery Company in Texas.

She will be based at the division office in Seattle and oversee QFC's 65 stores in Washington and Oregon.

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