Walgreens Own Brand HBC: 'Ownership' Driving Excellence  11/27/2017

Helayna Minsk -- Group Vice President, Walgreens Retail Brands for Walgreens Boots Alliance -- and her staff were recognized as ECRM’s 2017 Merchant Team of the Year for the own brands HBC category for their excellence in sourcing, merchandising, and supplier collaboration.

ECRM discussed these three areas with Helayna, to highlight the strategies and successes that earned her and her team the award.

ECRM: What is your leadership philosophy to encourage your team to be their best?
Helayna Minsk:
We’re very fortunate to have an incredibly smart, talented team, people we know we can empower to do their work. Empowerment comes from their sense of ownership of the business and knowing that they have earned a seat at the table. Our teams are equal partners to our merchants and when your team feels invested in their work and knows they have your confidence, they show you their best.

ECRM: What are your team’s strengths and what characteristics do you attribute to their success in today’s turbulent retail environment?
Minsk: My team is a hybrid of legacy Walgreens folks who are experts in retail and feel the corporate brand in their bones, and more recent classical brand management hires who have brought their marketing training from other organizations to the table. In addition, we look to create a team whose diversity reflects that of our customer base. Different perspectives and backgrounds help ensure that we are thinking about how Walgreens Own Brands deliver on our customers’ needs and fit into their lives.

ECRM: How do you keep tabs on emerging product trends to help in your sourcing efforts?
Minsk: So many ways of tapping into our customers’ needs: Combined with our excellent insights team, both global and local, who help us keep a firm finger on the pulse of all categories, we also work closely with our merchant partners on what they’re hearing and seeing in the marketplace. We have the benefit of rich customer loyalty card data, our own supplier network insights, and we lean into consumer research and testing as we develop everything from concept to product to packaging.

ECRM: Can you give us an example or two of some recent successful products you have brought into your category?
Minsk: Consistent with Walgreens’ overall mission to help our customers live healthier lives, we’ve repositioned our Nice! brand to make it easier to eat healthier without sacrificing taste. The rebranded Nice! product line includes new products and ingredient standards, such as by minimizing hydrogenated oils, trans fats and artificial ingredients wherever possible. In addition to more delicious recipes and packaging that makes making nutritious choices easier with a “health corner” speaking to the nutritional aspects of the products (calorie count, non-GMO, gluten free, etc.), we’ve also introduced a selection of organic items, such as flavored popcorns, tortilla chips and honey, which are exceeding our expectations. We tested the new range with more than 7,000 customers.

ECRM: How are you leveraging digital in your merchandising efforts?
Minsk: We take an omni-channel approach to our merchandising efforts because we want to be accessible to our customer however she wants to shop. In addition to our Walgreens digital team, we have dedicated resource for our Own Brand digital efforts. Walgreens.com auto reorder feature in categories like health & wellness (vitamins, for example) makes it easy for customers to stay in stock with their favorite products.

ECRM: What is the ideal you try to attain in your relationships with suppliers?
Minsk: We are looking for suppliers that go beyond the typical relationship. By providing strategic guidance, we look for suppliers to be focused on innovation and committed to building our business together.

ECRM: Where do you see your category heading over the next three to five years?
Minsk: We are prioritizing categories where we want to win. Categories like health and wellness, as well as beauty and personal care are core to our business strategy and heritage. By focusing our resources to Walgreens mission-critical areas, we support both the enterprise and our best customers in their quest to live happier, healthier lives. 

Wayne Bennett

Senior Vice President, Retail

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