Supervalu Marketing Chief Dishes on Turnaround Strategy

Three Questions With Grocery Marketer and Ad Age CMO Strategy Summit Speaker Michael Moore

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Michael Moore
Michael Moore
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Michael Moore left a 24-year career at Procter & Gamble last year for a significant -- some might say daunting -- new assignment: Help spark a turnaround at grocery giant Supervalu.

First joining the Minnesota-based company as business transformation officer, Mr. Moore in January was named EVP-chief marketing officer, overseeing marketing for Supervalu's big regional chains such as Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, Farm Fresh and Save-A-Lot.

Supervalu ranks as the nation's 13th-largest retailer, but U.S. sales fell 3.6% in 2011 to $29.3 billion, compared with the 2.6% rise at Walmart (ranked No. 1 by total sales) and the 9.1% jump at Kroger (ranked No. 2), according to a just-released ranking of the nation's 100 top retailers by the National Retail Federation's Stores magazine.

Mr. Moore will discuss Supervalu's turnaround strategy at Ad Age 's upcoming CMO Strategy Summit in Chicago. We recently caught up with him for a quick preview:

Ad Age : Supervalu recently announced an expansion of its Essential Everyday store brand -- which was introduced last year -- to 2,700 products in more than 100 categories. Explain the strategy. Is this an acknowledgement that people are still watching every dollar?

Mr. Moore: Consumers are still very conscious about saving money and having great value, but they are also very conscious about not giving up great quality. ... We think we can provide branded quality -- and in many cases our flavored profiles and performance are even stronger than the nearest branded competitor -- at a great value.

Ad Age : The supermarket business grew up as a regional, even local, business. But in recent decades, we've seen national chains take more prominence, from giant discount chains like Walmart to specialty, premium retailers like Whole Foods. How do you view that evolution and how do you see Supervalu-owned stores fitting in?

Mr. Moore: The competitive marketplace has never been tougher and more demanding than the one we are operating in today. It's one of the reasons why we believe our focus on being "hyperlocal" and being part of the neighborhood in which we serve is a real unique competitive advantage for us. ... As you can imagine, that has very important implications on how we leverage branding and advertising. While we are a very large national player in grocery retailing, we think the way in which we operate and the way in which we bring it to life through being that unique partner in the neighborhood is something that is unique in the marketplace today.

Ad Age : You've been going "hyperlocal" for a while. How is it going? What has changed?

Mr. Moore: We've been on this journey for about 18 to 24 months. ... This is part of our business-transformation effort as a company.

There's a number of different [areas] that it impacts, from making sure that we've got the right local assortment that 's really representative of the market and the neighborhoods in which we compete. And having freedom and flexibility to be able to do that while also continuing to manage a national assortment strategy. And also, as you think about community involvement, changing the way our store directors are viewed and supported in terms of their connection to the community. So really being a great neighbor in the market ... whether it's through churches, schools, community events, you name it.

The last piece is having the right degree of autonomy at store levels. ... A great example is [that ] one of our Albertsons stores in Irvine, Calif., happens to sit right across the street from [University of California], Irvine. The store director there does an amazing job of working to make sure the store is relevant not only to his core shopping population ... but also the students that arrive there and are there for a good part of the year. ... He even has university students who get to come in and suggest ideas for relevant merchandising for the university.

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