Although the Scarborough, Maine-based chain numbered only 138 locations at the time of its purchase in the year 2000 by Delhaize — little more than a tenth the size of sister chain Food Lion — the company has leveraged Hannaford’s management and technology expertise at its other banners, including both Food Lion and Kash N’ Karry/Sweetbay.
Under the leadership of Pierre-Olivier Beckers, chief executive officer of Brussels-based Delhaize Group, whose tenure is examined in a story beginning on Page 10, New England became the de facto headquarters for the U.S., despite the physical headquarters campus location at Food Lion’s Salisbury, N.C., offices. Executives were developed using Hannaford’s cross-training platforms, then they were shipped off to apply those learnings at Food Lion and Sweetbay.
In addition, Hannaford developed technologies that were rolled out across the organization, and Hannaford also created Guiding Stars, a pioneering nutritional rating system that has since been applied at Food Lion and Sweetbay.
It is hard to argue against the logic of sharing Hannaford’s wealth of expertise, despite the huge differences between Food Lion — a promotional retailer that operates relatively small, conveniently located boxes in small towns across the Mid-South — and Hannaford, an EDLP operator that caters to New Englanders and emphasizes the quality of the shopping experience.
Now the tide may be turning, however. After the departure of Ron Hodge, the Hannaford veteran who had been overseeing Delhaize America, and the appointment of Roland Smith — a Southerner with a home in Atlanta — to succeed him, observers say more executive functions are migrating from Maine to North Carolina, where Smith works from the company’s U.S. headquarters.
In addition, as consumer demand for discount/value retail grows, Delhaize is reminded of the place Food Lion once held as the premier value operator in the South. As reported in this week’s issue, Food Lion appears to be returning closer to its roots, which are also reflected in the positioning of Bottom Dollar Food, the price-impact banner that is the company’s most promising growth vehicle.
Food Lion has taken a few shots on the chin in recent years, but it may have some fight left in it still.
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