If the business maxim that “trouble is only opportunity in work clothes” is accurate, then the five industry leaders profiled on the following pages have a walk-in closet full of opportunities.
SN has selected five executives who face particularly daunting challenges, but have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and take their companies to a higher level of performance in the year ahead.
The five “Executives to Watch in 2007” are Larry Benjamin, chief operating officer, Ahold U.S. Retail; Eric Claus, chief executive officer, A&P; Mark Foote, president and chief merchandising officer, Loblaw Cos.; Tim Mason, president and CEO, Tesco USA; and Duncan Mac Naughton, executive vice president, merchandising and marketing, Supervalu.
Although each of them has a distinct array of problems to overcome, one common element that recurs throughout their stories is a focus on strategies that are hewn by sharp customer insights.
Benjamin, a CPG veteran who is charged with jump-starting Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover, said he is looking forward to the up-close interaction with customers that running a retail business provides. Similarly, Mason said his biggest challenge “is ensuring that customers have the shopping experience they want” as he seeks to expand his British company's empire. At Supervalu, Mac Naughton has responsibility for bringing customers back into the Albertsons stores through a merchandising program the company calls “premium fresh and healthy.” Claus is also overseeing makeovers at A&P, which has had some initial strong consumer response from an upscale revamp and is rolling it out to other stores in the chain. At Loblaw, Foote steps into a situation where he has to both learn the food retailing business and reverse a situation in which the chain's customer perception as a premier food retailer has eroded, analysts said.
FIVE EXECUTIVES TO WATCH IN 2007
Larry Benjamin, Ahold
Eric Claus, A&P
Mark Foote, Loblaw
Tim Mason, Tesco USA
Duncan Mac Naughton, Supervalu