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Starbucks’ Newest COO Rosalind Brewer Is First Woman, African-American to Hold Position

Rosalind Brewer

Rosalind Brewer served as president and CEO of Sam’s Club for five years before resigning in January 2017. (Image courtesy of Walmart)

Starbucks has tapped former Sam’s Club president and CEO Rosalind Brewer as its newest chief operating officer and group president, making her the first female and first Black American to grace the highest echelons of the coffee company.

Beginning Oct. 2, Brewer will oversee the company’s operating businesses across Canada, the United States and Latin America, The Seattle Times reported. Her new position is the second-highest after Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson.

Brewer, who joined the Starbucks board of directors in January, already has more than 30 years of management and executive leadership experience under her belt. Her career with retail giant Walmart began in 2006. She spent six years serving as regional VP, after which she headed daughter company Sam’s Club as president and CEO. She served in that capacity for five years before resigning on Jan. 6, 2017.

By then, Brewer had been named the 57th-most-powerful woman in the world by Forbes.

“Ms. Brewer has a wealth of experience in retailing, consumers and [consumer packaged goods] markets,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, told CNBC. “She is also used to running large, complex organizations with a global focus.”

In recent quarters, Seattle-based Starbucks has experienced slowed growth — something the company attributes to the overuse of its mobile app. Essentially, customers are putting in orders for frapps and lattes faster than the staff can make them. The company has also seen a slump in its retail sales, prompting plans to close over 300 of its Teavana stores by spring 2018, according to CNBC.

That’s where Brewer comes in. The Seattle Times reported that during her time at Sam’s Club, the former CEO implemented online ordering, a drive-through pickup and scan-and-go technology. Now, she hopes to improve Starbucks stores by revising how and where staffers are stationed throughout the establishment.

“I’ve been impressed with the work that [Starbucks] has done in the digital space,” Brewer said, “but you can only build that if you have a strong base in the basics of running a good retail operation.

“Let’s face it — the mobile app has been fantastic for this brand,” she added. “And anytime something is new and goes this well, it’s time to make sure that as this thing grows, we’ve got every piece of our business intact.”

Another reason Brewer said she was drawn to the coffee company was due to its diversity, an issue she sought to address as head of Sam’s Club. Although Starbucks is doing pretty well in the diversity department (its board is 29 percent female and 36 percent nonwhite), Brewer said she wants to improve it even more.

“I’m excited about what could happen next, but I am very appreciative of where it is right now,” she said. “It’s in great shape.”

Naturally, Starbucks is rolling out the big bucks for Brewer’s expertise. A regulatory filing shows she’ll receive an annual base salary of $1 million, in addition to a signing bonus of $1 million and a $7 million equity award upon joining the company.

“She’s a world-class retail operator,” Johnson told the Seattle Times.”She brought a lot of insight from her past experience.”

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