Coles Group has snapped-up one of Walmart’s most senior and seasoned executives to become its new head of e-commerce, just as the retail giant pivots its online operations to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the uncertain retail environment in the recovery.
Ben Hassing, a 16 year Walmart lifer, will start as Coles’ new chief executive of e-commerce this month, a new executive level position that reports directly to into Coles Group chief executive Steve Cain.
The appointment comes as the wider Australian grocery and supermarket sector pivots to recast operations to adapt to a post pandemic world where shoppers are now flocking to online ordering to stay safe rather than shopping at stores because of social distancing requirements.
Both Coles and rival Woolworths initially struggled to cope with scaling up their online businesses, not because of issues taking and processing transactions but due to a shortage of goods, delivery drivers and vehicles, and disrupted supply chains.
The huge surges in consumer demand forced the shuttering of online ordering until panic buying abated, an occurrence certain to have prompted a review of digital and logistical resilience as supermarket shelves emptied as soon as they were filled.
While it is understood Hassing’s recruitment was put in play before the COVID-19 outbreak, the timing of the announcement is fortuitous as both Coles and Woolworths recalibrate online operations.
“E-commerce has a very important role to play in our purpose of sustainably feeding all Australians to help them lead healthier, happier lives and we’re looking forward to the considerable experience that Ben will bring to our business and to the leadership team,” Coles Group chief executive Steven Cain told iTnews.
It's fair to say Hassing has pretty well done a full tour of Walmart, having started out as an MBA intern and worked his way up from a buyer through to a range of regional operational and technology leadership roles.
Hassing also spearheaded Walmart’s push into China, holding senior vice president roles for e-commerce and technology for that region before taking heading up Walmart’s cross border trade function while at the same time steering Walmart’s international e-commerce group.