GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- James B. Meyer, the longtime Spartan Stores executive who led the company's transition from a co-op to a publicly traded retailer/wholesaler operating 116 supermarkets and drug stores in Michigan and Ohio, last week said he planned to retire sometime next year.
Jeanne Norcross, a company spokeswoman, told SN that Spartan was seeking a chief executive officer to replace Meyer, who also held the titles of president and chairman of the board and had recently taken over the management of the company's retail division.
"We are looking for someone with extensive retail experience," she said.
Meyer joined the company in 1973, has served as president since 1996, chief executive officer since 1997 and chairman since 2000.
He recently assumed control of the company's retail operations after the departure of Executive Vice President Joel Barton. Those operations have been struggling lately, with same-store sales declines in the mid-single digits in recent quarters. The company recently began shuttering 12 locations.
Chuck Cerankosky, analyst, McDonald Investments, Cleveland, said Spartan's retail division has been hurt by the tough economy and "fierce competition in the Detroit-Toledo [Ohio] corridor," but he said the company's move to begin acquiring retail stores in 1988 under Meyer's direction was a positive one.
"Jim was the architect of the move into retail, and he recommended a number of different changes that the company needed to make," he said. "I think overall Jim did an excellent job of leading the company."
Spartan engaged search firm Korn/Ferry International to conduct the search. Spartan said the exact date of Meyer's departure would be determined by the amount of time needed to effect a smooth transition.