Joe Kelley, president of Stop & Shop’s New England division, departed the company effective Monday, Ahold USA officials said.
Don Sussman, president of Stop & Shop - New York Metro, will lead the division on an interim basis, officials said.
Officials said Kelley left the company to pursue other opportunities but declined to provide further detail on the circumstances of his departure. The move represents the third division president change at Ahold USA since the appointment of U.S. COO James McCann in 2013. Gordon Reid was named Giant-Landover president following the departure of Anthony Hucker in late 2013. A year ago, Tom Lenkevich was appointed president of Giant-Carlisle, succeeding the retiring Rick Herring.
“We wish Joe all the best,” Tracy Pawelski, a spokeswoman for Ahold USA, told SN. “We are fortunate to have a strong leadership team at Stop & Shop New England that is well-positioned to continue to drive the strategy that is already in place.”
Kelley was appointed president of the division in 2012, succeeding Mark McGowan. He previously served as CEO of Marsh Supermarkets, and was also an executive with Price Chopper, A&P, Bozzuto's and Adams Hometown Markets. He is a Massachusetts native who began his career with Purity Supreme.
In an interview with SN last summer, Kelley discussed an initiative to test various pricing and merchandising strategies at a group of stores in the division known as the “digital district.” Successful concepts at these stores could be rolled out to others chainwide as part of the company’s ongoing investment in its customer proposition.
Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, described Kelley as a capable leader and said, “I hope he left to take another offer.”
Ahold last week said sales in its fourth quarter were down slightly, citing a “very competitive” market in New England as well in its Giant-Landover division. Discussing results of an ongoing price investment program, officials noted that New England’s price perception among shoppers was improving, but was still the lowest of Ahold’s four U.S. divisions.
Observers said Stop & Shop, despite market-leading positions in many areas of Connecticut and Massachusetts, has been struggling against high-volume, lower-cost competitors including BJ’s Wholesale Club and Demoulas Market Basket. A six-week labor dispute at the latter company provided Stop & Shop with an unexpected sales bump over the summer but the gain appears to have been short-lived.
“My sense is that there may be some disappointment that sales have not been better — and that they were not able to sustain the avalanche of business they saw over the summer due to the dispute at Market Basket,” Flickinger said. “For a long time Stop & Shop was able to win by taking share from the weaker players like Waldbaums and Pathmark, but there’s less of that opportunity today.”
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