SN profiles five industry leaders who see clear — if challenging — paths to ongoing success in 2009.
Increasingly, businesses and consumers seem to be wondering if there is in fact any light at the end of the economic tunnel.
In the five profiles linked at right, SN presents interviews with five industry leaders who are laying the tracks to guide their companies through the dark passage and beyond.
Their backgrounds are varied, and the companies they work for each face distinct challenges, but each company also stands at a critical point in its evolution.
At Safeway, for example, Diane Dietz, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, is trying to enhance the chain's value image after the company has invested heavily in promoting quality and variety.
To do so, she is leveraging her training at Procter & Gamble, which has given her a strong background in customer centricity and innovation.
“The only way I know how to operate is to put the consumer in the center of all we do, and to focus the marketing team's effort on staying in touch with consumers and figuring out what they're looking for in terms of value and innovations,” she told SN.
Joan Kavanaugh, vice president of purchasing at Aldi, already has an offering that is well positioned for the current economic environment, but is working on a project to remerchandise the limited-assortment stores. Her efforts come as the chain has embarked on a breakneck expansion tear that is bringing it into new markets like Florida and Texas.
At Winn-Dixie, Dan Portnoy, chief marketing and merchandising officer, is undertaking a remodeling program and a neighborhood-specific marketing effort that seeks to help revive the brand in the Southeast.
“The challenge is really about changing our image with consumers and having it stick so we can get them to change their buying habits and switch to Winn-Dixie,” he explained.
Mike Vail, who was named president and chief operating officer of Sweetbay Supermarkets last June, has already helped instill a new corporate culture at Sweetbay. Now he is seeking to make the chain profitable for parent company Delhaize Group, in part by leveraging the success of a new price campaign and a strong perishables offering.
Sander van der Laan took over as chief executive officer of Ahold's Giant-Carlisle chain last year, at a time when the banner had been generating some of the best results in the industry. Now he's planning to try to take that success to the next level, and expand the banner into new formats and further improve on its already strong value image.
“By nature I'm not somebody who wants to manage the status quo,” he told SN. “I'm somebody who wants to build the business going forward.”