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updated 1/29/2014 4:36:01 PM ET 2014-01-29T21:36:01

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz on Wednesday said he was promoting Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead to the new position of chief operating officer, allowing Schultz to focus on expanding the coffee shop chain's e-commerce business, particularly mobile payments.

Alstead will assume oversight of the company's day-to-day operations, including its cafes, where traffic rose 4 percent during the quarter that included the holiday season. Starbucks also saw a record $1.4 billion loaded onto gift cards during that quarter.

The Seattle-based company, a leader is mobile payments, gift cards and digital marketing, for years has been finding ways to link and strengthen its sales by tying together its cafe business with product sales by grocery stores and other retailers.

Schultz said such efforts helped Starbucks outshine other U.S. retailers during the 2013 holiday season, when shopper visits to overall brick-and-mortar retailers dropped 14.6 percent, according to ShopperTrak.

The CEO expects the company's new e-commerce emphasis to further bolster performance.

It is an opportunity for Starbucks "to create new channels of revenue and profit outside four walls of stores .. amid a seismic shift" in the way consumers are shopping, Schultz who is also chairman, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Schultz declined to give specifics on the company's plans.

"This is not about succession planning and this is not about me in any planning to or even thinking about leaving he company," he said.

Starbucks is an investor in mobile payments provider Square. When asked if Starbucks planned to buy that company, which processes mobile payments for Starbucks and other retailers, Schultz said Wednesday's announcement was not about an acquisition.

Schultz did say that future programs would include the use of "Starbucks currency in other retailers outside Starbucks."

Starbucks already allows registered users of its loyalty and payment card to earn "stars," or points, when they buy coffee at a participating grocery store. Those stars can then be redeemed at a Starbucks cafe.

Scott Maw, senior vice president of corporate finance, Scott Maw, will be promoted to executive vice president and chief financial officer, the company said.

Craig Russell also will be promoted to executive vice president for global coffee, the company said.

Shares in Starbucks inched up 0.2 percent to $71.70 in after-hours trade.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

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