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In recognition of the Better Neighbor promise not just espoused, but embraced at all levels of the organization, Progressive Grocer honors Ahold USA and its divisions as its 2014 Retailer of the Year.
When times get tough — as they often do — there’s simply no substitute for good neighbors, who instinctively surface at just the right time with a welcome meal, a helping hand and a caring heart.
Those same traits are what inspired Progressive Grocer to present Ahold USA and its divisions with its highest annual honor as the 2014 Retailer of the Year, a recognition bestowed chiefly for its vast and exceptional philanthropic contributions provided to the numerous communities served by its regional operating divisions: Stop & Shop New England, Stop & Shop New York Metro, Giant Landover and Giant/Martin’s.
Serving millions of customers in some of the nation’s most densely populated and competitive geographic corridors, Ahold USA operates roughly 770 supermarkets in 14 states — from Massachusetts to Virginia under its four sister divisions, each with its own support business, along with the online grocery and delivery leader, Peapod. Accounting for an estimated 60 percent of its Dutch parent’s sales, Ahold USA, led by COO James McCann, is carrying out a broad array of activities to fulfill its directive to deliver on an aggressive Reshaping Retail crusade while working to preserve the heritage of its local brands, with a strong focus on reinvesting in value, service and quality, alongside an expansive omni-channel blueprint to meet shoppers’ needs both today and in the future.
McCann is humbled and gratified by PG’s Retailer of the Year honor, which comes nearly two years into the company’s aforementioned Reshaping Retail strategy, at the core of which is a trio of interconnected promises “we make to our customers, our associates, and the communities and neighborhoods where we operate: to be a great place to work, a great place to shop and a great neighbor.”
Far more significant than an admirable catchphrase, Ahold USA’s Reshaping Retail framework “defines our strategic ambitions, how we operate and what we want to be as a company,” McCann notes. “It speaks to our common set of values across all our businesses, and a shared vision for the future.” While the formal strategy was originally announced in early 2013, he continues, “the commitment dates back much longer than that at each of our operating divisions, which share an enormous legacy of being a good neighbor.”
While being a good neighbor is satisfactory, becoming a better neighbor is superior, maintains McCann, and also critical to the company’s broader “good-to-great effort of getting better every day,” which includes parallel investments in its customer and value offering to make its stores better places to shop.
The ongoing good-to-great journey, explains McCann, is rooted in an aggressive aim “to strive as hard as possible to make our stores the best places possible to shop. We know we’re not going to become a great retailer unless we’re also a great place to work, and a great neighbor in the communities which we serve and where we live. Every single one of our divisions has been a key player in their communities, and has continuously found ways to give back.”
And though the programs, acts and deeds may vary within each division, “the central philosophy is very, very similar, and a core part of what we do,” he maintains.
Since his arrival, the British-born McCann, 45, has focused closely on strengthening Ahold USA’s e-commerce proposition and customer loyalty programs. He joined Ahold as chief commercial and development officer in September 2011 after spending more than 20 years with some of Europe’s largest retailers, including Carrefour France, where he was executive director and a member of the group executive board. He has also held top roles at Tesco, including leadership of some of its most successful markets, among them Hungary, Poland and Malaysia, and before that worked for Sainsbury, Mars and Shell. He was appointed to Ahold’s management board in the spring of 2012, and a year later assumed his present COO duties.
When asked about his observations on the company’s greatest strengths and leading points of difference, McCann, with 18 months of stewardship under his belt at the time of the interview, says he can’t help but marvel at Ahold USA associates’ bigheartedness, which surpasses anything he’s ever before seen. “I’ve worked on three continents and in 10 countries, and I’ve never seen a company’s community engagement more profoundly embedded in its DNA than what exists in the divisions of Ahold USA,” he asserts.