Kmart names new CIO

Kmart Corp. today announced the appointment of Randy L. Allen as chief information officer, making her the company's fourth CIO in the last five years.

But Allen actually will take on an expanded role over her predecessor, Joseph Osbourn, and will serve as executive vice president of corporate strategic planning, integrating that critical function with IT, a spokeswoman for the Troy, Mich., based retailer said.

"Randy Allen is highly regarded as an expert on supply chain effectiveness, product development, merchandising, logistics, information technology and vendor/retailer relationships," Kmart CEO Chuck Conaway said in a statement. "With 25 years in the industry, she brings a wealth of talent and experience that will be instrumental as we implement new technology, systems, business processes and strategies that will enable Kmart to achieve world-class execution that benefits Kmart customers nationwide."

Allen joins Kmart from Deloitte Consulting, where she was a partner specializing in retail, apparel, manufacturing and distribution industries. Her prior experience also includes consulting stints with IBM and The Boeing Co. and three years as chief information and administration officer for Phillips Van Heusen Corp.

The new Kmart executive vice president and CIO will have more money at her disposal than many of her predecessors. Kmart recently announced plans to spend $670 million on technology and logistics this year, part of a two-year, $1.4-billion plan to revamp its IT systems and improve its execution and store performance, a company spokeswoman said.

"That's more money than Kmart has spent in the last decade on IT," the Kmart spokeswoman said.

Allen's predecessor, Osbourn, had joined Kmart last fall as the company continued efforts to rebound to profitability after stinging losses in the mid-1990s and in its fight to keep pace with rivals Wal-Mart and Target Corp. Osbourn is no longer with Kmart, the spokeswoman said.

Jim Dion, president of Dionco Inc., a retail consulting firm in Chicago, said he's long suspected that budget constraints were responsible for past CIO departures. "I just think they get frustrated and leave," Dion said, adding that Kmart "finally seems to be bellying up to the bar to pay what they need to get current."

Dion noted that Kmart has "a lot of catching up to do, particularly on the logistics side and the store systems side."

AMR Research Inc. retail analyst Janet Suleski said that Allen's appointment is "probably not related to any spectacular failures on the previous CIO's part." Suleski noted that Conaway joined the company only recently, on May 31, and might have wanted to bring in his own new team. "I'm sure it's related to standard management turnover," she said.

"They're in a pretty tight situation now where they need to make a lot of changes in their IT infrastructure and deliver a lot of improvements quickly to keep their stockholders happy," Suleski said.

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