Paper and pencil only go so far in the grocery business these days, and Sal
Costanza knew it was time for Save Mart to make a leap.
As director of procurement for The Save Mart Companies (encompassing Save Mart, Lucky, and FoodMaxx stores), a role he has held for four years, Costanza ensures he and his crew are on top of everything that comes through the warehouse, while also being in-tune to the exact needs of the stores.
A change was needed, and Costanza was ready to initiate it. He worked to develop new software, and orchestrated strategic alterations in item setup, procurements, warehousing, and distribution methods which resulted in a substantial reduction in cost of goods sold and a corresponding increase in gross profit.
The company looked into changing how to ship goods into the value format for FoodMaxx stores. The distribution center went from a more manual solution to an automated solution, and Sal worked with developers to automate the practice so stores could order more efficiently. He established the process, redefined the flow of goods from ordering it from the vendor to getting it to stores at the best cost to the company.
“We started utilizing the warehouse so we could still take the buys the stores needed for their four-week promotion or the two-week flier. We had to do a few different things between setting up different types of item types that we had not done in the past and then taking deals on the backside of a bill to maintain that cost,” he said.
Costanza’s bright thinking extended to the store’s supply chain domain, where he began collaborating closely with the executive director of distribution to gain insights into the intricacies of warehousing and transportation functions.
In 2019, he spearheaded the inbound logistics work stream, and his leadership in the role yielded the company an additional net profit of $2 million within just 16 months.
His first move on that project was to start collecting supplier location data.
“We were really taking a look at who we were buying from, how much volume we had with these suppliers, and what was available for us to pick up,” he said.
All the data was put into an electronic document so Sal could total up the income vs. the expenses. Again that resulted in more efficiency.
A lot of Costanza’s ideas come from just listening to what people have to say. A few years ago, he was included on weekly calls with the warehouse transportation and procurement units.
“I got some exposure as to what we were currently doing as far as pickup and delivery,” said Costanza. “So I had an understanding that we had some opportunity out there.”
Taking advantage of an opportunity is how Costanza got drawn into the grocery business. A neighbor was a store manager at a Lucky’s and asked Sal if he was interested in a job. He took it, and continued to work grocery while he went to college.
After college, Costanza secured a position as a grocery buyer, and it eventually led to a job as a category manager at FoodMaxx.
“Right now, I look at this company and we have a bright future and it is no secret that we are growing,” Costanza said. “I’m hoping to become a VP one day, whatever department that might fall under.”
“I’ve been in the business a long time, and it’s rare when you find somebody who, quite frankly, could have a career in any pathway that he would choose within the retail operator arena,” said Charles Miller, SVP of supply chain and logistics for Save Mart.