UPDATE 4-Sears hires former FreshDirect exec as CMO-memo
* Names Monica Woo as VP and chief marketing officer: memo
* Appointment effective Aug. 15
* Lampert sees online as Sears' savior: analyst
* Sears shares pare some losses, down 0.6 pct (Adds analyst comments)
NEW YORK, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Retailer Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O) has named former FreshDirect executive Monica Woo to be vice president and chief marketing officer, filling a post that has been vacant since January 2010, according to an internal memo obtained by Reuters.
The news comes at a time when the parent of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain faces tremendous pressure to upgrade its stores and improve its merchandise mix and customer service.
Sales at the company, where hedge fund manager Edward Lampert is chairman and the biggest shareholder, have fallen every year since it was formed through the merger of Sears and Kmart in 2005.
Woo will be responsible for the overall marketing, brand and advertising programs for Sears, the memo showed. Her appointment takes effect Aug. 15.
She most recently was the chief marketing and strategy officer of U.S. online grocer FreshDirect.
"I think it's more confirmation that Lampert sees online as Sears' savior," Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand said.
Woo's experience should help Sears as it steps up its efforts to boost its online business.
"She's a hotter property than the recent CEO hire (Lou D'Ambrosio)," Swinand said of Woo. "So it's mildly encouraging that she's joined."
Sears Holdings has had trouble hiring executives since Lampert is seen as being difficult to work with and does not want to pay too much, Swinand said.
"The risk to the joining executive is high, since results have been weak," he added.
Woo's appointment is just the latest management change at Sears. D'Ambrosio joined the company in February, ending Sears' three-year search for a new chief executive. Three months later, its chief financial officer resigned.
Woo will replace Don Hamblen, who left Sears in January 2010 to join Family Dollar Stores Inc (FDO.N). She will report to David Friedman, senior vice president and president of Sears' marketing business, who joined the company last year.
Woo has also held senior positions in e-commerce, financial services and consumer packaged goods, including president of the consumer floral division of 1-800-Flowers.com Inc (FLWS.O), CMO of Deutsche Bank AG's (DBKGn.DE) online retail bank in Latin America and president of global brands for Bacardi Ltd.
Sears shares recovered some losses on the news and were down 39 cents or 0.6 percent at $67.69 in Nasdaq trading. Earlier, they traded as low as $66.52. (Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Gerald E. McCormick, Phil Berlowitz)