2011 Power 50: No. 13 David Shapira

2011 Power 50: No. 13 David Shapira

Consumer demand is always changing, and David Shapira — chairman, president and chief executive officer of Giant Eagle [2], Pittsburgh — believes it's important to not only change with that demand, but to anticipate it as well.

It's this mindset that led the privately owned supermarket chain to establish one of the most successful loyalty programs in the business, and it's what continues to drive the company as it evolves its marketing strategy and works toward a more sustainable future.

“You can't just wait and see what others are doing,” said Shapira, in an interview last year during a visit to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “If you want to be really successful, you have to anticipate what the people are going to want and how they want to get it. A key part of leadership and management is trying to figure that out before other people do.”

What Giant Eagle customers want is more fuelperks! and foodperks!, the popular loyalty programs that offer savings on food and gas. And the company has given them just that by promoting and expanding the services to more stores.

The benefits go both ways. With more than 2 million Advantage loyalty cardholders, Giant Eagle has become an industry leader in collecting and analyzing purchase data.

“To truly understand and help the customer, you have to understand who they are,” said Shapira. “The kind of information contained in the records can help you do that.”

To promote even further loyalty, Giant Eagle unveiled a new advertising platform late last year that plays up the personal connections customers and employees have to their stores. The series of online, print and video ads features people discussing what they love about Giant Eagle, from the produce department to the meal stations, ending with the phrase, “That's My Giant Eagle Advantage.”

While its approach to advertising and marketing is constantly changing, Giant Eagle's commitment to sustainability is unwavering. Last year, the company recycled thousands of tons of cardboard, mixed paper, plastic film and cooking oil. It also increased the amount of locally grown produce it stocks, and has been a leading member of the Environmental Protection Agency's GreenChill refrigeration program since joining back in 2007.

“They were the first supermarket partner to reduce their corporate-wide refrigerant emissions rate to below 10%, a feat that most in the industry said couldn't be done,” said Keilly Witman, manager of the GreenChill program.

And then there's Giant Eagle's flagship Market District store in Robinson Township, Pa., which in November became the company's sixth location to receive the EPA's prestigious Gold LEED certification. With more than 150,000 square feet of space, the store features 130 skylights and windows, low-flow toilets, a reflective roof and numerous other eco-friendly characteristics.