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Editors' Note: The following is an excerpt of PG's profile feature on its 2016 Retailer of the Year, Giant Eagle Inc, the full story of which appears in the October 2016 issue.
Like a carefully crafted patchwork quilt whose individual pieces — each of which is original, with a beauty of its own — have been sewn together over time, stitched intricately by hand and designed to stand the test of time, the splendid tapestry created by Giant Eagle Inc. over the past 85 years is a work of art. Indeed, the careful selection of the various fabrics, and the unique placement of each, embodies the Pittsburgh-based retailer’s admirable ability to weave its various elements into a uniquely distinctive, highly durable heirloom to be passed on for future generations to nurture, preserve and further enhance.
As one of the 40 largest privately held companies in the United States, standing at No. 16 on Progressive Grocer’s Super 50 ranking of the nation’s leading food retailers, Giant Eagle exhibits many hallmarks of a company setting the pace for its peers, including continued strategic expansion; multiformat store designs tailored to specific community needs; an expanding focus on culinary, wellness and convenience-oriented offerings; demonstrated investments in technology, infrastructure and logistics; an ongoing commitment to providing quality goods to consumers hungry for value; and extraordinary success and leadership not only in the industry, but also in local communities.
For these important reasons, and numerous others, PG is proud to recognize the extended Giant Eagle family — including its pioneering corporate visionaries, dedicated corporate support teams and thousands of outstanding store associates — as its 2016 Retailer of the Year, an honor bestowed annually on one select retailer that truly stands apart in the highly competitive food industry.
While officials from the regional food, fuel and pharmacy retailer are fiercely proud of its vibrant heritage and superior track record, they’re equally enthusiastic about perpetuating their diverse and dynamic organization by adhering to the foundational threads woven into Giant Eagle’s DNA, which, as CEO Laura Karet explains, are its strong values, innovation and constant drive to reinvent itself for shoppers in a changing marketplace.
“We have a unique blend of an incredibly strong value system that came from our founders that I think is one of the key reasons we’ve been able to stick together so long,” she says. “It’s a pretty unique thing that five families have stuck together for four generations, combined with a very strong entrepreneurial drive to constantly better ourselves. It’s like we have a house that was built on these values, but we keep remodeling it. We can do that because the foundation is so good.”
Giant Eagle’s value system rests upon four pillars — four key constituencies in which the company’s leadership firmly believes: team members, or associates; customers; communities; and shareholders.
The order is deliberate, Karet explains: “We put our shareholders last purposely. We strongly believe that if you do the right things for the first three, good things happen for them. It’s allowed us to really think long-term about the business and doing the right things for the right reasons. We want to be profitable like everyone else, and we hold ourselves accountable to public company standards, but we think for the long run, not quarter to quarter.”
Get Up and Go
Integral to Giant Eagle’s continued success in the years ahead, according to Karet, is the company’s development over the recent past as a multiformat retailer.
“I’d like to say that we had agreed on a plan and knew that the world was going to change the way that it did,” she says, in a nod to Giant Eagle’s varied retail banners. “What actually happened was we ‘entrepreneured’ our way into a bunch of different formats. It ended up that the world had changed in such a way that being a multiformat retailer has been a huge advantage to us. In the last two years, we’ve really focused on a couple of the formats that we think have huge growth potential.”