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The Fresh Market Inc. has appointed EVP and COO Sean Crane interim CEO, replacing President and CEO Craig Carlock, who has left the company and resigned from the board. With the aid of a national executive search firm, the board is now looking for a candidate to fill the top position permanently.
"Under Craig's leadership, the company successfully transitioned from a private to a public company and experienced five consecutive years of increased sales and earnings," said Ray Berry, founder of the Greensboro, N.C.-based specialty grocer and chairman of the board. "The company is well positioned, both culturally and financially, for future success, and has a significant opportunity, through its unique and differentiated grocery shopping experience, to gain share in existing markets and expand into new markets. I further believe meaningful opportunities exist to improve profit margins through both structural and operational initiatives."
Added Berry: "The board is focused on identifying the right candidate to lead The Fresh Market through its next phases of growth, while providing opportunities for our employees and delivering greater value to our stockholders."
In response to Progressive Grocer's request for additional comment on Carlock's departure, Matt Argano, SVP, human resources, replied: "The Fresh Market's board of directors has determined that now is the time for a new leader to implement and accelerate the important work underway at the company. Craig Carlock joined The Fresh Market when the company was much smaller, with just a handful of stores in six states. During his five years as CEO, the company focused on opening new stores, same-store growth and an expanded presence across the country."
Crane, who has held his present role since 2012, was previously the company's SVP, store operations (2006-12), and SVP, real estate and development (2005-06). He was also interim CFO from December 2012 to June 2013.
"Sean is a strong executive and a proven leader, with significant experience and knowledge of the company and its operations," noted Berry. "He has been instrumental in the development and execution of The Fresh Market's growth strategies, and a key player in its success. Sean has the board's full support to continue executing the company's growth strategies and initiatives."
Argano added that Crane would work toward "positioning the company for a long period of growth and opportunity. "
Fiscal 2014 Outlook
In other company news, The Fresh Market reaffirmed its fiscal 2014 guidance, provided last November, of comparable-store sales growth of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, and adjusted earnings of $1.56 to $1.64 per diluted share. The guidance excludes anticipated store closure and exit costs of about 17 cents per diluted share, as well as about 3 cents of costs per diluted share in connection with the leadership changes noted above. Including both the store closure and exit costs, as well as the costs related to the leadership changes, diluted earnings per share are now expected to be $1.36 to $1.44.
The Fresh Market operates 168 stores in 27 states.