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Toys “R” Us Brings On Ex-Pepsi Exec Carla Hassan As Global CMO

As Toys "R" Us seeks to rebound following a holiday sales decline, Pepsi veteran Hassan will be focused squarely on driving brick-and-mortar visits around the world.

Fresh from domestic and and international store visit sales declines during the all-important holiday season, Toys “R” Us has named 13-year Pepsi marketing executive Carla Hassan as its Global CMO.

Hassan is taking on a wider role than Toys “R” Us has previously had. Last summer, CMO Rich Lennox left his CMO role at the toys retailer to join Macy’s in that same role.

In her new post, Hassan will be responsible for “developing a global marketing strategy and a best-in-class team to drive growth for the toy and baby businesses.” In addition to the traditional role of creating programs designed to inspire greater brand affinity, she’ll also be charged with managing relationships with vendors and other partners, which could involve Toys “R” Us further developing its own location presence, social media marketing, and proximity engagement programs. 

Her official start date is Feb. 20 and she reports directly to Toys “R” Us CEO and Chairman Dave Brandon.

“Carla not only has exceptional experience from both a global brand and leadership perspective, she brings with her a passion and reputation for change,” Brandon said in a statement. “I expect to see her immediate positive impact on our Marketing programs and ability to connect with today’s consumers and drive traffic into our bricks and mortar stores and our web store.”

Hassan was with Pepsi for 13 years, where she oversaw marketing of Quaker and Gatorade in the U.S. She was also CMO for the company’s Middle East/Africa food and beverage business.

Before Pepsi, Hassan held a number of marketing posts at Kellogg.

“I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to steward another iconic brand. As a marketer, a mom and a kid at heart, I see endless opportunities to make this brand even more magical and inspiring,” Hassan said.

Among her first challenges will be working on same-store sales a Toys “R” Us’s over 866 U.S. locations and its 750 international outlets.

Holiday Weakness, Rapid Change

Last week, Toys “R” Us told investors that U.S. same-store sales slipped 2.5 percent, while international was down 4.9 percent. 

In a sense, Toys “R” Us faces the industry-wide retail challenge of balancing and battling digital channels, which offer instant convenience and satisfaction, with a brick-and-mortar business model that is being forced to change drastically and rapidly.

“The 2016 holiday season proved to be an unusual and challenging one for most retailers,” Brandon said. “The loss of momentum in the toy category triggered intense promotional activity from our competitors, creating a significant competitive challenge.”

Brandon has vowed “aggressive action” this year, including the relaunch of its online store, “which we expect will have a significant impact on our ability to drive future growth in both our baby and toy businesses.” 

Still, he hasn’t offered many details on the brand’s omnichannel plans. But that will certainly be a top priority for Hassan as she seeks to connect online and offline commerce.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.