Jeff Martin Resigns As Ahold USA EVP Of Merchandising And Marketing

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In a very surprising move, Jeff Martin resigned his position as executive VP-merchandising and marketing for AholdUSA, effective June 8. No replacement has been named and Ahold’s top executive in the U.S., Carl Schlicker (CEO –Ahold USA Retail and COO-Ahold USA), will fill Martin’s role on an interim basis until a successor is announced.

While the news came as a shock to many in the trade who viewed Martin’s role as the Ahold USA executive most closely aligned to Schlicker, Martin said in an interview several hours after he resigned that his decision to leave was totally a personal one.

“My 33 years with Ahold have been truly enjoyable. But as I approach age 50 this year, I have the opportunity to decompress and prioritize some other things in my life. I feel very blessed to be with a great partner in Andrea (Astrachan) and I will now have more time to spend with my daughter. I am not retiring from the business and I hope in the future I can make a positive contribution. However, for the present, I plan on taking care of some things that are important to me and my family,” Martin noted.

Martin’s career in the food industry began in 1978 when he worked as a produce clerk at the original Martin’s Food Market store in Hagerstown, MD while attending high school. He stayed with the company at store level in various positions and entered the retailer’s store management training program in 1986. In 1987 he was named a produce and bakery specialist before being promoted to district manager in 1992. He was named director of produce and floral for Giant/Carlisle in 1997 and was upped to regional VP of store operations-east division in 1998.

He moved over to the newly acquired Edwards division in 2001 as that banner’s VP of operations and merchandising, ultimately moving over to the Stop & Shop division during the transition of Edwards’operations into that division. Ultimately, he returned to Giant/Carlisle as VP-perishables before being promoted to senior VP-perishables by the end of 2001.

In 2009, the Ahold USA Retail organization was established to oversee operations at all four of the company’s banners (Giant/Landover, Giant/Carlisle, Stop & Shop NY and Stop & Shop New England). Martin was then named executive VP-merchandising and marketing for that entity.

In other Ahold related news, the Amsterdam retailer posted lower than expected sales and earnings in its first quarter ended April.

Net income declined to 282 million euros ($352 million) from 291 million euros ($363.7 million) a year earlier, the Amsterdam-based company said today. “We expect 2012 to be another challenging year for the food-retail industry, with intense competitive activity and consumer spending under pressure due to economic uncertainty, particularly in Europe,” CEO Dick Boer said earlier this month.

Profitability fell in the U.S. as the company invested in price cuts to win market share, Boer said. Shoppers are holding back on spending as the European debt crisis worsens and the grocer is responding with promotions and cheaper private-label items. Ahold is also expanding into new countries such as Belgium to lift revenue and bought Internet retailer Bol.com this year to boost non-food sales.

In the U.S., which controls about 60 percent of Ahold’s total business, the retailer stated its sales, underlying operating income as a percentage of revenue dropped to 4.1 percent from 4.6 percent. Revenue increased 2.8 percent to $7.8 billion.

“We have to play a very aggressive game on promotion in the U.S.,” Boer said on the call, adding that Ahold has increased its market share. With U.S. unemployment still at high levels, Boer said he is cautious for the rest of the year.

In the Netherlands, sales increased 1.2 percent to 3.3 billion euros ($4.12 billion). Sales growth was affected by a shift in holidays, mainly as a result of the timing of Easter, the retailer said. In the second quarter, identical sales growth for the company will improve from the first, Boer said.

Ahold, which owns Albert Heijn stores in the Netherlands and Belgium, has said it plans to cut costs by an additional 350 million euros ($437.5 million) over three years and increase the proportion of earnings paid as dividends.