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2012 Power 50: No. 12 Laura Shapira Karet

Laura Shapira Karet, who succeeded her father, David Shapira, as chief executive officer of Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, on Jan. 9, shares with him a deep appreciation of the company’s employees, called team members.

“He has fostered my understanding that the nearly 36,000 people who work in our stores, retail support centers and corporate offices every day are the lifeblood of our company, and will be the drivers of all the success we have as a company,” she told SN via an email interview. “We know that having happy and dedicated team members will result in having great customer service, which in turn will make for happy customers.”

Karet, 42 and the mother of three young children, also regards employees as a source of ideas to help grow the company, and is focused on helping them “realize the power that they possess to generate these ideas.”

A fourth-generation supermarket executive, Karet joined Giant Eagle, which is partly owned by her family, 12 years ago as vice president of marketing. She most recently was senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer. Prior to joining Giant Eagle, she held marketing executive positions at Sara Lee and brand-management roles at Procter & Gamble. “My brand management experience has allowed me to better appreciate the perspective of our vendor partners,” she said.

Along with naming Karet CEO, Giant Eagle, which operates 170 supermarkets and 166 convenience stores, and has annual sales of about $9.3 billion, announced that Shapira would become executive chairman; Shapira had been the CEO of the regional chain since 1980 and has been with the company for 41 years.

Giant Eagle has developed a number of secondary formats — five upscale Market District stores, two downsized Giant Eagle Express units and seven discount Valu King outlets — to go along with its conventional Giant Eagle supermarket and GetGo c-store banners. In the past six months the company has opened new stores under all five banners, and will debut another Valu King this fall — its first in Pittsburgh — reportedly next to a new Bottom Dollar location in a battle of discount formats.

In May, Giant Eagle opened a 14,000-square-foot Giant Eagle Express store in Indiana, Pa., the second such store since the company introduced the concept in 2007. The store features a wide selection of fresh prepared foods as well the most commonly shopped-for grocery items.

“The continued evolution of our various banners remains a focus for us. We are excited about future expansion opportunities,” said Karet, though she declined to share specifics. Last November she told the Pittsburgh Business Times that the company’s store growth would take place within its existing geographic footprint in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.

Over the past year, Giant Eagle has also made a significant investment in digital tools and customer relationship management as a whole, including a mobile app that allows customers to add digital coupons to the Advantage loyalty card, view their fuelperks! and foodperks! reward-program balances, make shopping lists and perform other functions. The company has also been “engaging both our customers and key influencers within our communities via social media,” said Karet.


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