For the third time in 13 months, Safeway’s Eastern division has a new leader. Parent firm Albertsons Cos. has named Jim Perkins to head the approximately 120-store decentralized division, replacing Dan Valenzuela who has left the company. Perkins, who currently is president of 176-store Malvern, PA-based Acme Markets, will expand his duties and oversee both banners. He remains a corporate executive VP of retail operations and special projects for Albertsons.
The change in leadership is not surprising given the struggles that Safeway-Eastern has encountered during the past 18 months. When Albertsons acquired Safeway in 2015, it moved quickly to shift to the decentralized merchandising model, based in Lanham, MD, that it first adopted after it acquired nearly 900 stores from Supervalu in 2013.
At that time, Perkins served as EVP-east region for the Boise, ID-based chain which moved Safeway veteran Steve Burnham from a corporate post in Pleasanton, CA to oversee its eastern division. After a fast start, when Safeway lowered many prices and empowered both store managers and the new local merchandising team to act more quickly and decisively, Safeway seemed to be changing its formerly sluggish course.
However, as its new system evolved and market competition became fiercer, Safeway associates and suppliers told us that everyday retails were creeping up and the new decentralized system was not operating as efficiently as hoped.
In September 2016, Burnham was replaced by 39-year Safeway veteran Valenzuela, who since 2015 was president of the company’s Seattle division. Valenzuela also headed Safeway’s Phoenix division from 2003 to 2015.
Upon hearing the news that Perkins would be running the division, one veteran Safeway-Eastern executive said: “This is really exciting news. I’ve been especially concerned with the condition of our stores, both physically and morale-wise. I’m confident that’s going to change quickly. Jim knows the business, understands the market (he had a four-year stint with Giant/Landover) and connects with people on a very positive level. We need that here.”
Perkins began his Albertsons career as a store clerk in 1982. After multiple career advancing promotions, he was named president of Acme Markets in 2013 and also elevated to executive VP of the parent company. In 2015, he was promoted EVP-East and a year held the same title for the retail chain’s large Western operations. He returned to oversee a significantly larger Acme division (after the acquisition of more than 70 former A&P stores) in June 2017, before adding the Safeway leadership list to his list of duties.