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New British executives have lessons for U.S. grocers

New British executives have lessons for U.S. grocers

With actors from the U.K. being well represented in the Oscar nominations, another area that Brits are excelling and being recognized in North America is in food and grocery.

AsdaOver the last two weeks Bi-Lo and Target are the latest retailers to recruit senior leaders with experience in the U.K. market. Meanwhile the path from Asda House in Leeds, U.K., to Bentonville is becoming increasingly well-trodden as Walmart continues to draw on its U.K. division for top talent.

These latest recruits, Ian McLeod at Bi-Lo, Mike McNamara at Target and Mark Ibbotson at Walmart, will join their fellow ex-pats including James McCann who is leading Ahold’s U.S. operations and Alex Gourlay who is now the top guy at Walgreens.

While they are undoubtedly attracted by the scale of opportunity in the U.S. market and their respective organizations, what do they bring to the table from the U.K. market?

The U.K. factor

The U.K. is often held up as one of the most competitive and dynamic in the world, and when you have two of the biggest going head-to-head, Walmart and Tesco, the competitive dynamics inevitably drive significant innovation in the market.

This includes in areas such as multichannel, where many of the U.K. retailers are building leadership positions. With online, convenience stores and discounters forecast to account for most of the growth in the market over the next five years, retailers have been investing in their capabilities to either share in this growth or defend their market positions.

In terms of grocery e-commerce, the U.K. is one of the most dynamic markets globally. From home delivery to store pick-up to collection at transit locations, such as underground parking garages, the major retailers continue to test and learn and bring new innovative ideas to the sector.

With small formats and c-stores, the model has evolved beyond the foodservice based offers we see here in the U.S. Fresh food ranges and meal solutions are central to the propositions. And with the discounters, Aldi and Lidl, growing at pace, competing against these retailers will have provided important insights.

Impact on the U.S.

We also expect grocery e-commerce, smaller formats and discount retailing to be three key areas to see stronger future growth in the U.S. Bringing their skills and knowledge to these areas will help these leaders’ new organizations move forward at pace. It’s also important to note the strength of the U.K. market in terms of private label development, category management expertise and format reinvention. These are critical areas where the new guys can also make their mark. British executives will be hoping to make the same impact on the American grocery market as their compatriots have been making in the film industry.

How do you see trends from the U.K. market transferring across to the U.S.? What best practices do you think could go the other way?

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