Kmart Shifts Ad Duties to Its CIO

DETROIT Kmart has shifted its advertising and marketing responsibilities to Karen Austin, its chief information officer, a company representative said.

Barbara Firment, 51, who was promoted less than a year ago to senior vice president of advertising, sales and in-store presentation, departed on Friday, the Kmart representative said, declining to elaborate.

Sources said Firment was dismissed. Firment could not be reached.

Austin, 41, who joined the Troy, Mich, retailer in 1984, is assuming her new duties on a permanent basis, the representative added.

Firment, who was with Kmart for more than 30 years, is the second marketing executive to leave the company in recent months. Steve Feuling, who was Kmart’s senior vice president for marketing, was one of several executives terminated in mid-March as part of the retailer’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy-related reorganization. His duties had been reassigned to Firment.

Kmart spent $270 million on advertising in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Austin, also a senior vice president, has been CIO since April 2002. She has no prior advertising or marketing experience, sources said.

Kmart’s agency relationships will not been affected by Austin’s appointment, the representative said. Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day, New York, handles broadcast duties while Meridian Advertising in Troy handles print.