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Supermarkets Can Take Small Risks: NEW Panel

LOS ANGELES — When it comes to taking risks, retailers have an edge because they can conduct small-scale tests at store level, Diane Dietz, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway, said here Tuesday.

Safeway CMO Diane Dietz
Diane Dietz

"Taking risks means evolving and moving forward," she said during a panel discussion at the 2013 Leadership Summit sponsored by the Network of Executive Women. "But when you're on the retail side of the business, you can test ideas at a few stores, and if something fails, then it fails in a small-scale way, as opposed to a CPG company that wants to launch a new product.

"At retail you can take risks and fail small or win big."

When a company tries something that isn't working, Dietz said, it may require a team effort to figure out how to proceed. "That means putting a plan together, which means you need to get the right people on the bus in the right seats to work as a team to turn things around."

Sue Klug
Sue Klug

Speaking on the same panel about risk-taking, Sue Klug, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Unified Grocers, Los Angeles, said she likes to see her team work hard "and then have some fun and encourage people to toss ideas around to see how we can do something in a whole different way. For example, if we're discussing a marketing program for 200 stores, I might suggest why not try it at 500 stores, and when someone asks if we can do that, I might say, 'why not?'"


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Klug, who used to head the Southern California division of Albertsons when it was owned by Supervalu, said sometimes companies promote an environment in which people want to avoid taking risks. "It isn't a question of taking risks to win — it's all about avoiding driving into a ditch. But when people try to stay in the middle of the road, it slows down the culture."

Read more: Step Out of Comfort Zone, Says NEW Panel

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