Taking Stock

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Vendors Buoyed By Results, Improvements At Acme 

Last year, the new leadership team at Acme Markets – president Jim Perkins, VP-merchandising and marketing Dennis Clark and VP-operations Dan Croce – humbly promised the chain’s vendors that better days were ahead and that new owner New Albertsons/Cerberus would allow the former Delaware Valley market leader greater flexibility and an improved “go to market” game plan.

After six years of rudderless and sometimes inept leadership by former owner Supervalu, the skepticism outweighed the optimism by a considerable margin. But, you couldn’t blame Acme’s direct reps, brokers and distributors for being a bit cynical about the retailer’s future after being assured of many positive changes from 2006 until 2012, only to see promise after promise unfulfilled.

So, when Perkins, Clark and Croce stepped up to the podium at the Acme store in Pennsville, NJ on March 25, there was a spring in their step and appreciation from their vendors.

The Acme leadership team and Acme team members have accomplished many of their initial objectives by simple hard work, honesty and humility.  The stores have become cleaner and easier to shop, morale has improved exponentially by improved communications and team building with the associates, prices have been lowered to realistic levels, and Acme has regained some if its traction as a “local” and more nimble player, a trait that is particularly admired by the vendors who for years had to trudge to Eden Prairie, MN to make their case, only to be stymied or misled.

Perkins, Clark and Croce also spoke of prioritizing “local” civic and philanthropic efforts involving food banks, hospitals and other non-profit organizations. They also noted the importance of realigning themselves with the Eagles as a key link to the community – both in terms of image and charitable endeavors.

In measurable terms, business at Acme has improved substantially, with many vendors telling us that their sales over the past year have increased by at least 10 percent and are continuing to grow. And Perkins noted that Acme will also be spending more on capital improvements during the next year than in recent history. Included in that cap-ex funding will be several major remodelings (the recent grand opening of its store at 10th and Reed Streets. in South Philadelphia would be an example) and the construction of what will essentially be replacement stores in Long Beach Island, NJ and Chestertown, MD.

Acme still has a long way to go before it can be compared to its halcyon days of the past. But what’s happened over the past 12 months is very encouraging. The chemistry among Perkins, Clark and Croce is impressive and the vendors are appreciative of those gains and the overall improved dialogue between themselves and the company.

Or as one of Acme’s suppliers stated during the question and answer period: “Thanks for giving us our Acme back.”

What a difference a year makes.