Viewpoints

Delhaize's Initiatives Push a Broader Role for Diversity

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Diversity initiatives are rolling out all over this industry, but few companies yet have the capacity to touch all or most of the bases. That's because the concept has the potential to find its way into almost every corner of the business, such as hiring and retention, working with suppliers, marketing to consumers, planning store formats and more. That's a lot of work for an organization.

This week SN profiles Delhaize Group's diversity efforts because the global company has managed to cover a large part of this territory. But just as important, Delhaize doesn't try to impose the same template on all of its global divisions, which in the U.S. include Food Lion, Hannaford Bros. and Sweetbay. Instead, each division's initiatives vary by the needs of market and community. The Florida market of Sweetbay, for instance, is far more ethnically diverse than that of Hannaford's New England region. So each unit has pinpointed where it can make the most gains. The final result is a worldwide entity that incorporates a spectrum of approaches and shares best practices.

Delhaize has been named SN's 2008 Champion of Diversity (see story, Page 26). What led the company down this road? According to this week's SN article, the group instills a culture of diversity that is based on far more than just compliance. Driven by a CEO who pushes the message, the company encourages innovation and sharing without directing it from the top.

It plays out differently in each U.S. division. Building diversity at Sweetbay was an urgent undertaking, because the retailer's predecessor company, Kash n' Karry, was severely lacking in a diverse culture, which hurt business and led to an employee lawsuit. Sweetbay launched training programs, targeted a broader mix of employees for hiring and retention, and terminated a few associates as part of a crackdown on harassment.

Hannaford's diversity approach took different directions, such as instilling the concept of multiple career paths, which often leads to more promotions of women. The retailer has tried to offer more workplace flexibility to associates and often promotes by moving employees around the organization to broaden their perspectives.

Food Lion's diversity initiatives included the creation of two banners to target different customer bases: the upscale Bloom and the discount-oriented Bottom Dollar. Also, Food Lion's extensive clustering program helps the chain market and merchandise to different groups of consumers.

Behind all these efforts is the business case, the belief that ultimately a retailer will prosper by doing the right thing.

This issue of SN includes two other profiles based on SN awards. K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., receives our 2008 Community Service Award, and Stephen Vowles, senior vice president of marketing for Ahold's Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover chains, was named Marketer of the Year.

It's good to celebrate achievements, and important to remember that excellence comes from “diverse” places in the industry.

Contributors

Julie Gallagher

Julie Gallagher’s delicious foray into coverage of the food industry was purely accidental. With a background in technology, she joined Supermarket News as associate editor of its Technology...

Mark Hamstra

Mark Hamstra is the editor of the Retail/Financial section of Supermarket News covering mergers and acquisitions, quarterly earnings reports, executive changes and other significant events and trends...
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