retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Reaction to Friday’s story about Supervalu’s announcement that Bill Shaner, a 27-year company veteran who has been running its Save-A-Lot division since 2006, is leaving the company, to be replaced by Santiago Roces, most recently a senior vice president and general manager at Walmart.

Roces also worked for Walmart as senior vice president of new business development and customer experience, president/CEO of Wal-Mart Korea, and chief merchandising officer of Wal-Mart Argentina. Craig Herkert, the Supervalu CEO who engineered the change, also is a former Walmart executive.

MNB noted that “the move is replete with irony, since presumably Shaner’s Save-A-Lot efforts were sufficient to lead Herkert to say that he wanted to build much of Supervalu’s turnaround process around the division, which combines low prices, limited assortments and mostly private label products. There are some 1,200 Save-A-Lot stores currently, and the company has said it wants to double that number in the next few years.

“Shaner has not commented on the situation. Supervalu only said that it appreciated Shaner’s work and that he was moving on to other opportunities.”

One MNB user wrote:

SAL has had a great run, they have a particular niche and have been exploiting it.  Bill Shaner is one of the reasons.  As a former SAL independent operator, I've had some disagreements with Shaner; but he generally proved to be correct.

It is a different mind-set at SAL and an outsider is going to have a steep learning curve.

SV can't decide if it is a retailer or wholesaler.  They were an outstanding wholesaler but a generally below average retailer.  If they have a strike in California SV will be heading for Fleming as a housemate.


Another MNB user wrote:

This is just one more example of leadership without conscious, credibility and cultural understanding.  Craig Herkert and Dave Pylipow have turned a company that was once one to be so proud of being affiliated with, to one that you don't even want to acknowledge was in your past.  I spent ten very proud years there and I never would have believed that our board or any of our leaders would allow Herkert to drain the ethics, values,  integrity, pride, and profitability of this organization into the deepest, darkest mud he can find.  I find it astonishing that once respected and intelligent leaders are so afraid of losing their own jobs that they are sitting by and allowing things like this latest move to happen.  Shame on all of them.  Shame on them.

I’ll repeat what I said here on Friday - from what I can gather, there seems to be no logical, market-driven reason for this change, and it sounds very much like Bill Shaner - with whom I have no personal relationship - got a raw deal. He helped to build a division that Herkert said was the future of the company, and now is being tossed aside in favor of a former Walmart executive ... which is of questionable merit since it isn’t like Walmart’s supermarket business has been such an enormous success.

In Supervalu’s top management building value? Hard to say that at the moment.

My sense is that Supervalu took a major morale hit over the weekend with this announcement, with a lot of folks trying to figure out what upper management is doing on the retail side. Real leadership, it seems to me, requires an ability not just to act, but to explain one’s actions and get people within an organization to follow. By that measure, Supervalu has some work to do.




I think a lot of people will relate to this email:

I am a buyer. A buyer with a relatively small desk ($21M/yr) . I work in a workplace that is relatively flat, meaning we all do many levels of detail as well as big picture thinking. I am not micromanaged, I have a clear sense of what needs to be done, am self-motivated, and I work for a retailer that is flexible and ready to change to stay at the front edge as needed.

But here is what is on my mind – I am tired.

There is no let-up or down time. Meeting with brokers, vendor reps, private label manufacturers, or other buyers, everyone says the same thing – “I am doing the work of 3 to 4 people.”, “There is so much falling through the cracks.”, “I just cannot keep up with it all.”, “Something has got to give.”, and “Did I get back to you on that? I don’t remember.”

We are all delighted to have jobs, so are not complaining, but OMG!


I feel your pain.




On another subject, one MNB user wrote:

Thought the parallels between Michael’s piece and yours on Citizen Kane were intriguing – Kane loses touch with the people and Acosta attempting to perfect an outmoded business model.  I see far too many companies (many of them retailers) who are so heavily invested in the way things used to be that they are missing what is going on around them.  A case in point is the fact that most retailers feel they know their consumers but if you poll the retailer and the leadership, the line associates and consumers themselves, you typically get three separate perspectives on what the consumer wants and the overall perception of how the retailer delivers on those “wants”.

For many years I have been concerned about what outside influence would disrupt the supermarket business model and was an early fear-monger that the likes of Webvan and Home Grocer would take over the world – if they could figure out the all important last mile (which clearly most online retailers have not really been able to do).  I still firmly believe that a “Bricks & Clicks” model is the “next” – but not the final – step in the death of the retailer as we know it today.  With Walmart moving to an online/pickup play and Amazon getting into the food space in a big way, I am fearful that in 100 years someone will look back and say:  “2010 – the year the supermarket industry fell”.  Sort of like the Roman Empire, we will not be able to set the date until well after when the world has fundamentally changed.

Retailers need to figure out how to embrace consumer’s changing needs, wants and shopping habits and develop a scalable and portable way to leverage that.  The heavy investment in the current infrastructure is designed to deliver exactly the results we are getting – a (mostly) average experience for a (mainly) redundant set of products and programs.  The stores were created to provide a way for manufacturers to get product to the consumer more efficiently and effectively and the wholesaler was created to enhance the efficiency of carrying a broad array of items.  If we can put a person on the moon, we can probably figure out how to remove lots of cost from this model and still provide the consumer choice and a more pleasant experience.




MNB user Steve Panza wrote in about our story detailing how the first two In-N-Out burger joints in Texas are prompting incredibly long lines...

Being a former Angeleno, I never understood the reverence In-and-Out had until I moved out of state. When I lived there, In-and-Out was okay (I'm more of a Tommy's fan) and would go occasionally. After I moved away, whenever I headed West to anyplace there was an In-and-Out, I would stop in for a visit. I have an In-and-Out future site near me (Arlington TX), so unless I happen to be in Frisco or Allen, I will just wait a few more months for a Double-Double, fries and strawberry shake.

To add to the DFW burger wars, I have tried Kinkaid's and feel they are a greasier, overpriced version of In-and-Out. Five Guys is pretty much the same, while Smashburger is a frou-frou version. Since the Heart Attack Grill just opened in downtown Dallas this week, I haven't had a chance to clog my arteries there. If you ever get a chance to head to Fort Worth, I do recommend the burgers at Love Shack - they are worth the high price.


Another MNB user wrote:

I witnessed over 100 cars in line for the drive-thru and just as many people waiting to get in the door at noon on opening day. Police were directing traffic. Most ironic to me was how yesterday numerous other fast-food chains miraculously had “Customer Appreciation Day” where they gave out free meals. I can’t believe these guys didn’t know what effect the opening would have on their business and be pro-active instead of reactive…too little too late in my opinion.

And MNB user Bill Welch wrote:

My mouth is watering for a Double-Double Animal Style, Well Done Fries and a Strawberry Shake.
KC's View: