retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Save-A-Lot, the limited assortment store chain majority owned by private equity group Onex, said yesterday that it is getting a new CEO - Kenneth McGrath, who "spent 13 years with Lidl in executive roles including Chief Executive Officer of Lidl Ireland from 2009 to 2013 and Chief Executive Officer of Lidl USA from 2013 to 2015."

After launching Lidl's US operations, McGrath became CEO of the Caribbean and Central America region at wireless telecommunications firm Digicel.

McGrath succeeds Eric Claus, the former A&P CEO who joined the company in December 2015 and took it through its separation from former owner Supervalu. Claus also was the former chairman/CEO of Red Apple Stores, a Canadian value-driven chain.
KC's View:
This strikes me as an interesting move, because it appears that Onex is placing a bet that if it wants to play on the same field with Aldi and Lidl, it needs to play the game the same way. That's the reason you hire a former Lidl exec.

When Claus became CEO at Save-A-Lot, I was intrigued because I thought he would be able to bring his experience in Canada to the US - discount stores there tend to have a very different feel than those in the US, and I was looking forward to seeing how he would apply lessons from there to stores here. (I always thought that given more time, he actually might've been able to save A&P - Claus is a smart and aggressive guy who, I've always felt, thrives on being a change agent.)

I have no idea what might've transpired at Onex, but it is a private equity group ... and such institutions generally tend to favor safer bets. McGrath's Lidl experience may make him appear to be a safer bet, but the question is whether he'll be able to create in Save-A-Lot as differentiated an experience as it needs to be.