JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie Stores here plans to continue to work on improving its store-level execution, in-stock position and customer service, and to market each store to its specific neighborhood, Frank Lazaran, the chain's newly designated president and chief executive officer, told SN last week.
Lazaran, 46, has been named to succeed Al Rowland when the chain begins its new fiscal year on June 26. Rowland, 58, who has served as Winn-Dixie's president and CEO since November 1999, said he plans to retire.
"Winn-Dixie is committed to running the best stores in each neighborhood we serve," Lazaran said. "It may sound trite, but we feel each store has its own personality, and we are committed to marketing to customers that way and to improving service and delivering on customer expectations.
"And while we must not lose our focus on stores as individual entities, we need to focus on centralizing backstage operations to take expenses out of the system. It's also important for a company of our size to spread best practices among all divisions." Lazaran said Winn-Dixie is committed to moving forward more aggressively on a store remodeling program.
"When we started restructuring three-and-a-half years ago, we shut down our new store program, and now we intend to ramp it up. But we're not going to acquire real estate just for the sake of opening new stores. We want to spend capital the right way, and if a site is not right, we'd rather invest the money in remodels."
Winn-Dixie has opened seven new stores, and remodeled or enlarged 44 stores since last June, Lazaran noted.
Lazaran has been with Winn-Dixie since April 2002, when he was hired as executive vice president and chief operating officer with the understanding that he would succeed Rowland, the company said.
"I brought Frank into the company a year ago because I knew he had the skills to lead our organization," Rowland said. "Over the past year, he has been instrumental in our business successes, and I have every confidence he will continue those successes in his new roles."
Prior to joining Winn-Dixie, Lazaran spent five years at Randalls Food Markets, Houston, where he served as senior vice president of sales, merchandising and logistics before he was named president in 1999 after the chain was acquired by Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif. He left Randalls for Winn-Dixie, reportedly because he wanted to run his own operation, trade sources told SN last week.
Earlier in his career, Lazaran spent 23 years with Ralphs Grocery Co., Compton, Calif., where he ended up as group vice president, sales, advertising and merchandising, before leaving to join Randalls in 1997.
A. Dano Davis, chairman of Winn-Dixie, said Lazaran "has made an outstanding contribution to our company since his arrival one year ago, and we are excited that he will have an even greater opportunity to impact our business in his new role. The board of directors was unanimous in his selection, and we believe it is an indication of the strength of our company that an individual of Frank's caliber was in our organization and ready to assume the leadership role in what we believe will be a seamless transition."
Davis said Winn-Dixie hired Rowland in 1999 "to be an agent of change, and he has done exactly what we asked of him -- improved our store operations and enhanced our financial position."
Rowland spent 24 years with Albertsons, Boise, Idaho -- interrupting that run with a one-year stint as president and chief operating officer of Jitney Jungle Stores of America, Jackson, Miss., from 1984 to 1985 -- ultimately serving as Albertsons' senior vice president and manager of the Northwest and Southwest regions. He left Albertsons in 1996 to become president and COO of Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Salt Lake City, for a year before retiring for two years prior to joining Winn-Dixie, where he succeeded James Kufeldt.
Under Rowland's leadership, Winn-Dixie moved from negative to positive earnings as it sought to become more efficient by restructuring its division organization; reducing and realigning management; centralizing procurement, marketing and merchandising; closing 116 unprofitable stores, including exiting Texas and Oklahoma; and retrofitting approximately 650 stores to improve customer service
In the process, it downsized its perishables departments; rationalized the number of private brands; increased the use of category specialists in each division; switched to net costing of goods by asking vendors to incorporate allowances into the cost of the merchandise; and developed delivery schedules based on logistics efficiencies rather than divisional alignments.