The second-highest position after President. After slow growth and a summer of falling shares partially due to long lines, Starbucks may be banking on Brewer’s expertise in using mobile and digital to generate more growth. Rosalind Brewer usually doesn’t drink coffee: Her order is iced green tea, unsweetened, with extra ice, twice a day. That’s what she was drinking Wednesday shortly after Starbucks announced Brewer as its new chief operating officer and group president — the second-highest position after President and CEO Kevin Johnson. Brewer is the first woman, and the first African American, to hold that title. She’ll oversee Starbucks’ operating businesses across Canada, the U.S. and Latin America. Brewer is not quite an outsider — she joined the Starbucks board of directors in January. She’s not an insider, having spent the past five years leading Sam’s Club, and six years at parent company Wal-Mart before that. She may be the best of both worlds, said Neil Stern, a retail analyst with McMillanDoolittle — someone who can change things without rocking the boat.
Improving Starbucks stores
Starbucks’ growth has slowed in recent quarters, something the company blames partly on so many people using its mobile app that the staff can’t make coffee fast enough. Brewer has some relevant history: At Sam’s Club, she implemented online ordering, drive-through pickup, and scan-and-go technology, letting customers scan items with their phones. Brewer said she’s going to focus on improving Starbucks stores by stationing the right people at the right part of the building — without moving away from human elements like greeting the customer. “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’ve got 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. 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.”
A $7 million equity award
Johnson, who held Brewer’s position before taking Howard Schultz’s place in April, said that since the company brought Brewer onto the board in January, she’s been asking “excellent questions.” “She’s a world-class retail operator,” Johnson said. “She brought a lot of insight from her experience.” In a regulatory filing, Starbucks said Brewer would be paid an annual base salary of $1 million, and on joining the company will receive a signing bonus of $1 million and a $7 million equity award. Brewer, who met with some Starbucks employees Wednesday, will start her job and will be based at the company’s Seattle headquarters beginning Oct. 2. Starbucks is not just a different industry for Brewer; it’s also a different position in the industry. Whereas Sam’s Club was always outpaced by Costco, its principal competitor in the world of members-only warehouse clubs, Starbucks doesn’t have a major rival at the same level “breathing down its neck,” Stern said.