B.J.’s Wholesale Club has named two retail industry veterans to two of the top technology jobs in the company, hiring Scott Kessler as chief information officer and Rafeh Masood as chief digital officer. Both will also carry the title of executive vice president, according to a company press release.
Kessler was most recently executive vice president and CIO for the Belk department store chain, and also worked for GSI Commerce and Accenture in the past. Masood joins BJ's from Dick's Sporting Goods, where he was vice president of customer innovation technology.
Masood’s job is a newly-created role in the company, designed to focus on e-commerce and omnichannel strategy. Kessler will take over for current CIO Peter Amalfi, who plans to retire later this year.
This announcement comes just a few weeks after a report surfaced suggesting that BJ’s Wholesale Club was abandoning a plan for an IPO in favor of seeking a buyer, with a further suggestion that Amazon could be that buyer. Nothing has happened on that front since then, and hiring two big-name technology executives — one of them into a newly-created job — is not the kind of thing companies typically do right before they get acquired.
But there's still hope for a deal. A merger or acquisition of some kind could help the wholesale club whose market progress has been blocked by Costco and Sam’s Club, which in turn are under increasing pressure from Amazon. BJ’s recently started looking for new revenue in the B2B space, but even there it will run into some of the same names, in particular Sam’s Club and Amazon.
If BJ’s believes there is another way forward, it may have just showed its hand, especially with the hiring of Masood into a role in which he will drive the strategy and vision for the company's e-commerce and omnichannel efforts. Kessler also has a lot of e-commerce experience. But, if BJ’s is intent on becoming an omnichannel beast, it needs to work fast to implement the systems and tools to help them introduce these new kinds of experiences — although it already has been doing that, according to CEO Christopher J. Baldwin.
"BJ's has made rapid progress in our omnichannel initiatives, and I'm pleased to have two new executives of this caliber join our team as we transform our company," Baldwin said in a statement. "Both Scott and Rafeh have extensive experience in building teams and delivering the technology and systems that drive growth. They will lead the investment in technology, people and systems as we build the omnichannel and digital platforms that showcase our value and deliver convenience to our members."
BJ's recently landed at the top of the Temkin Group’s list of retailers with the best customer service. If the company is ready to stick to its own path instead of pursue a sale, perhaps others in the wholesale club market have just been served notice.