Kroger Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Donnelly will retire this spring, the grocer announced in a press release on Monday. The company has not yet named a successor.
Donnelly began his career at Fry’s Food Stores in California, becoming division president in 2000. He became Kroger’s head of merchandising in 2011 and in 2015 was promoted to executive vice president. In 2017, Kroger named him chief operating officer.
Donnelly played a pivotal role in Restock, the three-year initiative that Kroger launched to build out digital sales and alternative profit streams as well as cut costs.
Donnelly’s 42-year career took him from the cash register all the way to the C-suite. He started out as a clerk at Fry’s Food in California in 1978 and advanced through several levels of management before becoming the chain’s head of merchandising in 1995. Five years later, he became division president.
Donnelly briefly served as Kroger’s vice president of drug/GM merchandising before returning to lead Fry’s in 2003. In 2007, he became president of the Ralph’s division, and four years later he headed back to the corporate office to become head of merchandising at Kroger. In 2015, he became executive vice president.
Under Donnelly’s tenure as chief merchant, Kroger made private label development a top priority, scaling brands like Simple Truth and Private Selection into a $20 billion business.
To set the table for Kroger Restock, the company named Donnelly to his final role as COO overseeing merchandising, manufacturing, supply chain and Kroger Health operations. Over the next three years, Kroger focused on cutting costs, investing in digital, testing out new partnerships and ramping up alternative profit streams.
Donnelly steps away from Kroger following a disruptive but highly profitable period of growth driven by the global coronavirus pandemic. Early investments in e-commerce, particularly pickup, helped the company meet demand spikes and draw in new customers, while new profit streams and the company’s fulfillment partnership with British e-grocer Ocado promise to drive future growth.
"With his relentless focus on the customer, Mike has led the organization to prioritize what is most important to their experience — full shelves, fresh foods and friendly associates," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "He energizes our teams to deliver results and the best experience for every customer, every time. Importantly, Mike has mentored and developed countless associates, inspiring them to grow and reach their greatest potential — many of whom are in key leadership roles across the organization."