Understanding Consumer Behavior

As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Bryan Lacasse was interested in marketing and consumer behavior. Eventually, he figured out that those interests were a perfect fit for the supermarket industry. After graduating with a bachelor's of science degree in Applied Economics and Management last year, Lacasse went to work as a store-manager trainee in Hannaford Bros.' vaunted management

ALBANY, N.Y. — As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Bryan Lacasse was interested in marketing and consumer behavior. Eventually, he figured out that those interests were a perfect fit for the supermarket industry.

After graduating with a bachelor's of science degree in Applied Economics and Management last year, Lacasse went to work as a store-manager trainee in Hannaford Bros.' vaunted management training program. While in school, he took several classes through the school's Food Industry Management Program, he said.

Although a relative who works for Cornell had suggested he pursue a career at Aldi, the fast-growing limited-assortment chain, Lacasse decided instead on Hannaford Bros., based in Scarborough, Maine, and owned by Brussels-based Delhaize Group. The Cornell program has produced several Hannaford store managers, many of whom have gone on to work in the corporate offices or in other areas of Delhaize's business.

“The ability of Hannaford to offer me a wide range of career paths within the company really attracted me to that particular company,” Lacasse told SN. “Plus, I was attracted to the technological advances they were making, and things like Guiding Stars [the nutritional rating system developed by Hannaford], and I really wanted to be a part of that.”

While in school, he said his interest in food retailing was honed by several classes in the Food Industry Management Program. In one session, students visited some upstate New York supermarkets, including Wegmans and Tops, and worked on solving real-world challenges those retailers faced.

He said the training he had in school prepared him in many ways to be a manager, especially in areas like accounting and finance, but the on-the-job training at Hannaford is really filling in the gaps. During the year-long program, trainees spend about a month at a time working in different departments at different stores within a region. Upon completion of the training, the individuals become store managers at a location in the region where they trained.

Lacasse works in the Albany district, which includes 13 stores. He is scheduled to complete his training on Aug. 1.

“The training encompasses every aspect of the whole store, from the bakery to all the fresh areas to Center Store,” he said. “And working side by side with associates is an eye-opener — you see how hard they really do work.”

He said a new aspect of the program in which trainees worked side by side with store managers throughout the busy year-end holiday season also provided a wealth of valuable experience.

Other components of the management training program at Hannaford Bros. include visits to the corporate headquarters, participation in learning groups, and team-building exercises.

Lacasse said the training program has made him realize that his decision to pursue his interests in marketing and consumer behavior by focusing on food retailing was the right one.

“[Managing a supermarket] really encompasses all areas of business,” he said. “It includes marketing, in terms of signage and placement of certain things in the store; it touches on accounting, from running the books, and trying to increase sales; and touches on consumer behavior because we are always watching consumers and engaging with them.”

BRYAN LACASSE

TITLE: Store Manager Trainee, Hannaford Bros.

EDUCATION: Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University