Ahold has announced several key changes affecting its senior management team both in Europe and the U.S. The Amsterdam based retailer will elevate Dick Boer to chief executive of the entire organization effective March 2011 and has also promoted Carl Schlicker to chief operating officer overseeing all U.S businesses, effective next January. Additionally, Sander van der Laan, currently general manager of Albert Heijn, will replace Dick Boer as COO Ahold Europe.
Boer will replace John Rishton, currently CEO, when Rishton assumes the post of chief executive at Rolls Royce plc next March. At that point, Rishton will relocate back to his native England, where, before joining Ahold, he served as CFO of British Airways.
Schlicker will replace Larry Benjamin who will be retiring from Ahold. Benjamin’s affiliation with Ahold began in 2003 when he was named CEO of U.S. Foodservice, shortly after an accounting scandal rocked the company. Benjamin was also instrumental in engineering the sales of U.S Foodservice in 2007 to two private equity firms for $7.1 billion. In 2006, was named to head Ahold’s U.S. platform and has served on Ahold’s corporate executive board (CEB) since 2008. Both Schlicker and van der Laan will report to Boer, but neither will join Ahold’s CEB, which beginning in March 2011 will be comprised of Dick Boer (CEO), Kimberly Ross (CFO), and Lodewijk Hijmans van den Bergh (chief corporate governance counsel). Ahold said that this structure will ensure that the new COOs spend their time managing and strengthening the businesses, while the board focuses on strategy and growth.
Dick Boer has been president and CEO of Albert Heijn since 2000, president and CEO of the expanded Albert Heijn arena since 2003 and its COO, Europe since November 2006. Boer joined Ahold in 1998 as CEO of Ahold Czech Republic. Prior to joining Ahold, he spent more than 17 years in various retail positions for SHV Holdings in the Netherlands and abroad, and for Unigro, NV, now Laurus NV.
Schlicker has held the position of CEO of Ahold USA-Retail since November 2009 where he was responsible for oversight of the retailer’s U.S. operations, including Stop & Shop, Giant/Landover, Giant/Carlisle and Peapod. His Ahold career spans 24 years. He was named president and CEO of Stop & Shop and Giant/Landover in August 2008 after holding the position of president and CEO of Giant/Carlisle beginning in February 2007. He joined the Carlisle, PA based division of Ahold in 1998 and was promoted to executive VP- sales and marketing in 2000.
Schlicker began his career at Acme Markets in New Jersey while attending high school and college. After graduation from Kean University where he earned a business administration degree, he joined Pathmark Supermarkets. He held several management positions during his 11 year career there. In 1986 he joined First National Supermarkets
(later Edwards Super Food Stores), which led to his joining Giant/Carlisle when the companies were combined.
Van der Laan is currently general manager of Albert Heijn. Prior to taking that position earlier this year, he was CEO of Giant/Carlisle. Van der Laan joined Giant/Carlisle in 2008 from Albert Heijn. Prior to joining Ahold 1998 years ago, van der Laan worked in the manufacturing sector, primarily with Unilever.
In related Ahold news, last month, Jeff Martin, EVP-sales and merchandising for Ahold USA Retail, addressed the Philadelphia-Central Pennsylvania Association of Manufacturers’ Representations/Mid-Atlantic Food Trade Association’s membership dinner.
Despite continuing economic challenges and the hurdles of dealing with a massive corporate restructuring, Martin remains bullish about the future of the $24 billion organization where he supervises all merchandising, marketing and procurement.
Martin, who 11 months ago was named EVP of Ahold’s U.S. business, which includes four divisions – Giant/Carlisle, Giant/Landover, Stop & Shop/Metro New York and Stop & Shop/New England – told approximately 150 reps and brokers at the AMR/MAFTO meeting at the Sheraton in Harrisburg, PA, that despite some slight improvement in consumer indicators, “we have not noticed much change in spending.”
‘We lost eight million jobs between 2008 and 2009 and that resulted in spending cutbacks and a reduction of trips to our stores,” he said. “There hasn’t been much of rebound; many people who have hit the floor are not moving from the position. There still is a very conservative attitude toward discretionary spending. Our challenge is how to effectively appeal to people who are really dealing with less.”
Still, Martin was optimistic about how AUSA has positioned itself with the consumer in this economy. Internally, however, the company was not maximizing the efficiencies of size and scale it had at its disposal. That was the catalyst for the corporate reorganization which was first announced last November 5.
The process actually began in January 2010 and nine months later Martin said about 70 percent of the goal has been reached.
“There are still big initiatives head of us, but by the end of October, we should have all the merchandising teams seated and in place in Carlisle,” he asserted. “The majority of people who have agreed to relocate from Quincy have moved and there will be a ‘single stop/one category manager to call on’ system in place shortly.”
He added that the last big hurdle towards completion is deployment of the chain’s systems and IT platform.
“It’s taken longer than we thought,” admitted Martin. “We found a lot of ghosts in our systems, but our people have worked extremely hard to get it right and we should be online with our systems in late 2010 or early next year.”
Once the components of the reorganization are fully completed, Martin is very optimistic about AUSA’s 2011 initiatives and believes his company is well positioned to grow over the next few years. Fueling that big picture attitude is the profitability of the entire Ahold organization and the fact that the Amsterdam based retailer has 3 billion euros to invest towards future acquisitions.
He noted that despite the economic challenges and internal changes, all banners remained very profitable and all achieved identical sales gains of at least two percent, which placed the chain at the top end of its peer group. Martin also expressed excitement about AUSA’s progress with its consumer intimacy platform, adding that “getting better connected” with the consumer is a major objective of the company during the next 12 months.
“This is a big initiative with us,” Martin stated. “We believe we have the systems and technology to better understand our customers. It’s no longer about mass marketing, it’s how effectively can you reach your target audience in all areas.”
One key focal point is mobile technology where Martin believes AUSA is close to “cracking the code” (he believes that in the not too distant future, all weekly ads will be delivered via mobile applications, not through newspapers).
The veteran grocery executive also told the audience about the importance of corporate responsibility and AUSA’s priority on healthy living.
“How we handle social responsibility will be a game changer. It is vitally important,” Martin declared. “Part of that responsibility is to create tools and find ways for our customers to eat better every day. We truly do want to sell more stuff and better understand the consumer. But in the end, it is truly about people, be they associates, children or friends. It is important to try to influence people positively. If you can do that you can change the world.”