AMSTERDAM — In a move signaling that a new phase is beginning in the repositioning of its largest U.S. banners, Ahold here last week appointed Carl Schlicker as the new president and chief executive officer of Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover.
Formerly the president and CEO of Ahold's Giant-Carlisle division, Schlicker, one analyst said, is a “brand and marketing genius” expected to lead the transition of Ahold's Value Improvement Program at Stop & Shop and Giant from a phase of lowering prices to an era of communicating those values to shoppers and building brands around them.
As part of the transition, Jose Alvarez, formerly the CEO of Stop & Shop/Giant, has been appointed executive vice president of global business development and will report to Ahold CEO John Rishton. Taking Schlicker's position as Giant-Carlisle CEO is Sander van der Laan, who moves from his role as executive vice president of marketing and merchandising for Ahold's Albert Heijn chain in the Netherlands. Albert Voogd will succeed van der Laan at Albert Heijn.
Lawrence Benjamin, chief operating officer of Ahold USA, has been nominated to serve on Ahold's corporate executive board, the company added.
Over the past 18 months, Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover have been undergoing a transition under what officials call the Value Improvement Program. Based on a similar program that turned around the fortunes at Albert Heijn, VIP lowered everyday prices, department by department, by reducing product selection and lowering internal costs. The changes were fairly radical ones for Stop & Shop and Giant — both of which traditionally employed highly promotional, high-low pricing strategies, observers said.
Officials last week said the process of re-engineering pricing at the chains was largely complete, and the management changes will accelerate the program's next phase.
“The VIP has a number of different elements to it. The one we've talked about most is the re-engineering of value and price repositioning. That has been led by Jose Alvarez, who did a great job implementing that element of the program,” Caro Bamforth, an Ahold spokeswoman, told SN last week. “The focus now is moving to the branding, marketing and consumer side of the business. Once we have re-engineered the pricing, we have to let consumers know. That is the stage we are moving to now.”
Schlicker took over CEO duties at Giant-Carlisle a year ago following the retirement of Tony Schiano. The 21-year Ahold veteran served for many years as a sales and marketing executive at Giant-Carlisle, a chain noted for its success in communicating value to consumers.
Matthew Truman, a London-based analyst who follows Ahold for Lehman Brothers, told SN last week that Schlicker was “a brand and marketing genius” at Giant-Carlisle.
“What they need to do now at Stop & Shop is to reflect what they have already done internally, and that's why Carl was brought in at Stop & Shop,” he said.
Ahold officials in a conference call last month discussed changing advertising tactics at Stop & Shop and Giant to compare pricing with competitors as opposed to contrasting its own lower prices with higher, older former prices.
The new CEO at Giant-Carlisle, van der Laan, “has an extremely strong track record” at Ahold as one of the leaders of Albert Heijn's turnaround, Patrick Roquas, an analyst for Rabobank, Amsterdam, told SN.
Sources said van der Laan's appointment did not indicate changes were in the offing for Giant-Carlisle, a consistently strong performer. Instead, the appointment reflects an internal focus on sharing strengths among Ahold's banners.