QUINCY, Mass. -- Stop & Shop Cos. here has carved out a new managerial position that will be charged with running both produce and deli under the umbrella of "perishable concepts."
The new position, called vice president of produce sales/procurement and perishable concepts, is apparently a nod to the growing importance of marketing fresh value-added foods at the 175-store chain. It also probably augers a forward-thinking exploration of ways to integrate the operations and products of the produce and deli departments.
Of the unusual pairing of produce and deli specifically under the same structure, Mary-Jo Anderson, a spokeswoman for Stop & Shop, said, "This is more of a merchandising and marketing position, with an emphasis on convenience and prepared foods."
However, Anderson added, the marketing segment of fresh convenience foods "is definitely an important area for us, and it has been growing steadily."
The new position is being filled by George Pauley, previously vice president and general sales manager for the Connecticut division of Stop & Shop. Besides being responsible for all sales and procurement activities for the deli and produce departments, Pauley will oversee floral, the company said.
"In addition, he will be responsible for developing and implementing new perishable concepts," said Stop & Shop in a statement.
Pauley reports to Marc Smith, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
In his new slot, Pauley
inherits some of the responsibilities that had been held by the chain's former vice president of perishables, Harold Alston, who recently retired from the company. Alston's old position, which had entailed oversight of all perishables departments, including meat and bakery, is being eliminated.
Anderson declined to elaborate on what, if any, shifts the chain would make in its prepared foods or produce strategies as a result of the fresh foods management restructuring. "There's nothing we would announce now," she said.
Months before the restructuring was put into place, however, Alston had hinted at some of the opportunities that Stop & Shop was exploring for combining produce and deli.
During a retail roundtable discussion convened by SN last fall, Alston said the chain was forming a "convenience section" that groups together value-added items.
"It is part of produce," Alston said. "In the long range, we may look at tying into deli and some other areas with it." That project was then in the planning stages, he said, but the two departments were already cooperating on some items.
As an example, Alston pointed to the chain's Caesar salad with chicken breast, which is prepared and packaged in the produce department, then brought to the deli department, where the chicken is added. The salads are then sold through the deli case, Alston said.
When the roundtable discussion turned to the topic of produce's potential role in supermarket food courts, Alston said, "I've been working on a format in one of my areas of responsibility, in perishables. We've got several plans on it right now.
"It's a major gamble," he said, "whether [shoppers are] going to move from the produce department into a convenience area and buy produce items. I guess that's our big hang-up right now.
"There are a lot of items available, a whole line-up, entrees that are going to be introduced very shortly by a lot of different companies. They'll be in the deli department," he continued.
"We've been giving it a lot of thought, and we happen to lean toward putting it all in one area and just calling it the 'quick pick up' area."
Jonathan Ziegler, a securities analyst with Salomon Bros., New York, said he was not aware of the details behind the new position. However, he said, an increased focus on food service would make sense for Stop & Shop.