VERNON, Calif. -- Smart & Final here said last week that Phillip E. Hawkins, president and chief operating officer since August, has left the company as part of a restructuring designed to refocus its marketing efforts.
Ross E. Roeder, 60, who was named Smart & Final's chairman and chief executive officer in January, has added the title of president. The office of chief operating officer has not been filled, the company said.
According to Roeder, "Phil and I had discussions over a period of time, and he felt it was in his best interests to pursue other opportunities. But I wish him well, and I want to make the road ahead a smooth one for him."
Hawkins, 47, joined Smart & Final seven months ago after 16 months as president and CEO of Penn Traffic Co., Syracuse, N.Y. Hawkins spent the prior 30 years with Vons Cos., Arcadia, Calif. (now a subsidiary of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif.), ending his career there as senior vice president of store operations.
His departure was hinted at less than three weeks ago, a company spokeswoman told SN, when Smart & Final reported fourth-quarter financial results, including a loss of $13.6 million and a sales increase of 8.6%. The company said at that time it was taking a $3.2 million charge "for a program to downsize corporate management functions."
Also leaving Smart & Final as part of the restructuring was Jerry Good, executive vice president in charge of purchasing and marketing for the past year and a half. Roeder said Good's former responsibilities have been assigned to two other executives, though he declined to name them.
Asked if other management changes were likely, Roeder replied, "Not anything significant."
Neither Hawkins nor Good could be reached for comment.
Roeder, who has been a Smart & Final director since 1983, said the situation at the company "is similar to a car whose tires are low. We need to put some more air back in to get things moving again.
"We don't have to reinvent ourselves, but we have to intensify our focus and our commitment to customers while continuing to upgrade our physical facilities."
Roeder said the company's retail operations are "in good shape" in all areas: the West (California, Arizona, Nevada and Idaho), the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington), the Southeast (Florida) and Mexico.
He said Smart & Final plans to introduce more localized marketing programs and assortments to its stores. "Because we operate in a lot of ethnic markets, we need to find better ways to serve local needs," Roeder explained. "We haven't done as good a job as we might responding to those requirements."
The company's problems have stemmed from its two broadline food-service companies in Florida and northern California, he said. The problems of overcapacity in Florida were addressed early last year with a new freezer facility in Miami and a new distribution center in Orlando, he noted; in northern California, the company re-racked its warehouse, assigned new senior management and shifted the focus to more credit-worthy customers late in the year, he added.
Roeder is a former executive vice president and chief operating officer of Denny's and a former chief executive officer of Fotomat; he also was chairman of Morgan Kaufmann, a publishing company.
At the time the company released fourth-quarter results, Roeder said, "We are determined that the company will be the low-cost operator in its markets while providing high value to the customer.