As the world seeks to wrest itself from the throes of recession, several supermarket companies are also seeking to reinvigorate themselves with new executives and new strategies.
In the Related Articles, SN takes a closer look at five of those new executives and the challenges and opportunities they can expect to face in the year ahead.
This year's Executives to Watch are Julie Dexter Berg, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Supervalu; Meg Ham, president, Bottom Dollar; Rick Herring, president, Giant-Carlisle; Ron Marshall, chief executive officer, A&P; and Michael J. Teel, CEO, Raley's.
At Minneapolis-based Supervalu, Berg brings a strong focus on branding to a company that is home to a conglomerate of retail brands at a time when Supervalu is reorganizing under a new CEO. She is described by observers as a keen strategist who relies on strong analytics in her work.
“With superior market knowledge, your opportunity to repeatedly outsmart your competitors goes way up,” she says on her consulting firm's website.
Ham, with experience at Delhaize banners Hannaford Bros. and Food Lion, will be charged with stepping up the rollout of the company's “soft discount” low-price concept. “We believe there are certain markets that are underserved by low-cost grocers,” she said.
Herring takes over Giant-Carlisle just as the company is preparing to begin integrating the recently acquired Ukrop's Super Markets banner into its Martin's division. A longtime financial executive with an analytical mind, the Ukrop's challenge will be compounded by his effort to step into the top executive post at the chain, observers said.
For Marshall, a cost-cutting specialist with a resume that includes both food and book retailing as well as food wholesaling, stepping into the leadership role at Montvale, N.J.-based A&P is a return to his past, in a way. He was a chief financial officer at Pathmark Stores, now part of A&P, before leaving to run wholesaler Nash Finch Co. His Pathmark experience could come in handy as the company seeks to revive the banner and rethink its approach to the market.
Teel, too, is returning to his past, as he rejoins Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley's, his family's company. The chain, known for its “foodie” appeal and upscale flair, has been caught in the middle between tough price competitors like Winco and high-quality operators like Whole Foods.
“He has his hands full, and it's not going to be an easy game,” George Whalin, principal at Retail Management Consultants, Carlsbad, Calif., told SN.