Taking Stock

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Local Notes

In light of the recent corporate changes at Albertsons Boise, ID headquarters (Wayne Denningham adds president title, former chief administrative officer Justin Dye departs) some other key corollary moves were made: former Jewel-Osco division president Mike Withers has been promoted to the role of executive VP retail operations East region. Withers began his career as courtesy clerk at Albertsons in Boise in 1976. Susan Morris, who had supervised the company’s East region, now will head Albertsons store operations in its west region as executive VP. Jim Perkins, who has seemingly done almost every job at Albertsons in his distinguished career including heading East and West Coast store ops, remains in his current role as executive VP special projects. Perkins is working with Dan Croce and his Acme team in Malvern, PA. Just before presstime, Albertsons released its fourth quarter and year-end (February 25) sales and earnings. Fourth quarter ID sales decreased 3.3 percent (3.7 percent at Safeway stores). That’s a sharp drop from the comparable period last year when comps were a positive 4.7 percent (positive 5.8 percent at Safeway). For its full fiscal year, Albertsons posted sales of $59.7 billion, a 1.6 percent gain, but continued to show red ink on the bottom line, posting a net loss of $131 million. Albertsons said it expects to spend approximately $1.4 billion in cap-ex during fiscal ‘18 ….at Weis’ annual shareholders meeting, held April28 at the company’s Sunbury, PA corporate offices, chairman and CEO Jonathan Weis said that the growing regional chain will focus its budget this year on new stores, remodels, supply chain improvements and continued IT upgrades. “In 2017, we plan to invest $90 million in our growth. Our budget includes 14 remodels, a new unit in Brunswick, MD., two fuel centers and the continued expansion of our distribution center in Milton, PA. We also have seven new stores in the active planning stages and expect most of them to open in 2018.” Weis also discussed the company’s recent acquisition and conversion of 44 stores and its 2016 results. “Last year was one of tremendous growth and opportunity for our company. In 2016, we acquired 44 stores and converted them in just three months’ time, growing our store base by more than 20 percent. As a result of our acquisition, we now operate 204 stores and expanded operations into two new states, adding Delaware and Virginia to our now seven state territory throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.” Weis said the company’s legacy stores continued to perform at a high level in 2016, which was a 53-week year compared to 52-weeks in 2015. Adjusting for the extra week, the family-controlled regional chain saw 2016 sales increase 6.9 percent to $3.1 billion while comparable store revenue increased 2.9 percent. Excluding a one-time gain, the company’s non-GAAP 2016 net income totaled $63.3 million, up 6.7 percent. Weis also noted the company’s comparable store sales had increased eleven consecutive quarters. “We are proud of our team – 23,000 associates strong – who made our success possible,” said Weis…Jeff Martin, executive VP-sales and marketing at Utz Quality Foods, has left the growing Hanover, PA snack food organization after four years. We spoke to Jeff about his departure and he said that the decision was strictly his own. “This was my choice,” said the popular industry executive, who joined Utz in 2013 after serving as executive VP merchandising and marketing at Ahold USA. “I have no other plans at this point – I just want to take some time off and review all of my options. I wish Dylan (Lissette, CEO) all the best. He has put together a really great team.” And that team has recently been reorganized. Joining Utz, which last year added Metropoulos & Co. as minority investor after completing the acquisition of Golden Flake Foods, is Tom Flocco, who will become president and chief operating officer. Flocco has been working with Utz as an advisor since October 2016 and formerly served as CEO of Fortune Brands (now Beam Suntory, an international spirits organization). Jay Thompson is also joining Utz as EVP and CFO. He most recently served as chief financial officer for Armstrong Flooring based in nearby Lancaster, PA. Veteran Utz executive Todd Staub, who was CFO, now becomes executive VP and chief administrative officer. Also joining the company will be Mark Schreiber, who comes aboard as executive VP and chief customer officer. Schreiber is well known in the grocery trade from his nearly 10-year stint at Pepperidge Farm, where he served as senior VP-sales and distribution. On the operations side, veteran Utz executive Tucker Lawrence assume the role of executive VP and chief production and planning officer. Of course, the primary architect behind these moves, Dylan Lissette, remains chief executive and vice chairman… one of Utz’s retail customers, Karns Quality Foods, the 8-store independent retailer based in Harrisburg, PA, has won Supervalu’s 2016 National Beef Stampede Contest. More than 120 grocers nationwide competed for the award which is aimed at increasing awareness of beef as an essential part of dinner. Karns’ winning campaign featured a program that included advertising; digital and social media promotions; a “win 100 pounds of beef” sweepstakes and recipes. The campaign resulted in an 11 percent increase in sales. A prestigious award deservedly earned by some of the nicest people in the business… Harris Teeter, a division of Kroger, opened its newest store this month in the Magothy Gateway Shopping Center in Severna Park, MD. The 49,000 square foot store is the company’s 15th unit in Maryland…several obits to report this month, including movie director Jonathan Demme, whose 43-year film career encompassed music documentaries (Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders and Neil Young), screwball comedies (“Married To The Mob;” “Something Wild;” and “Melvin and Howard”) and included two of the best movies of the past 30 years (“Philadelphia” and “Silence of the Lambs”). A creative film maker who had a keen sense of the importance of dialogue, Demme was 73 when he passed…another personal favorite who left us earlier this month was Michael Parks, who died at the age of 77. Parks was a rugged and tough character actor who had more than 145 film and TV roles during his 55-year career. He was probably best known for his role as casino owner and drug runner Jean Renault on the TV series “Twin Peaks,” but he enjoyed cult comeback over the past 15 years because of his association with iconic film director Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino cast him in “Kill Bill: Volumes One and Two” and later in the great “Django Unchained.” …and during the last month, the industry lost two of its most notable executives: Charles Mallowe and Manda Johns. Charlie Mallowe, 72, spent his entire career at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He graduated from that great Jesuit school in 1966 and a few years later became a cornerstone in creating the university’s Academy of Food Marketing, which today is the largest academic institution and training ground for educating future grocery industry leaders in the country. He remained at that post for 41 years, retiring in 2009. A tip of the glass to you, my friend! Also leaving us much too young was Manda Johns, senior VP merchandising for Supervalu’s Eastern region. descriptions like bright, perky, hard-working and a great team player, only provide a basic overview of the talent and attitude that Manda brought to those she worked with. She began her career at Safeway in Denver, than became VP-bakery and deli for Giant/Landover, before joining Supervalu in 2004. In 2015 she was promoted to senior VP. She was only 46 when she passed. She will be greatly missed.