Albertsons Cos.: Passionate about Shoppers, Stores & Products  12/27/2017

Geoff White, President, Albertsons Own Brands, and his staff were recognized as ECRM’s 2017 Merchant Team of the Year for the own brands grocery category, for their excellence in sourcing, merchandising, and supplier collaboration.

ECRM discussed these three areas with White, to highlight the strategies and successes that earned him and the Albertsons Companies Own Brands team the award.

ECRM: What is your leadership philosophy to encourage your team to be their best?
Geoff White:
Firstly, we have incredible individuals in our organization that just love to do great work. Part of our philosophy is to inspire our team to be passionate about our shoppers, our stores, and the high-quality products we put in our great brands. Our company mission is to be our customers’ favorite local supermarket. Our Own Brands team is inspired to make that happen by giving our stores the best exclusive brands and innovating to meet ever-changing shopper needs.  

We set big goals for Own Brands products to be the engine of growth for our stores. We do this by empowering our team to deliver tons of great new items at the speed of consumer demand, arming our stores with a best in class portfolio of exclusive products and brands that helps our stores attract shoppers and drive shopper loyalty. All of this is accomplished with our great internal team and great partnerships with our suppliers.

ECRM: What are your team’s strengths and what characteristics do you attribute to their success in today’s turbulent retail environment?
The strength of our team lies in our passion for our shoppers and stores, our great relationships with our supplier partners, and our ability to get great products to market FAST! Our Own Brands team is accustomed to change and has demonstrated resilience and ability to thrive during change. We have moved mountains over the past three years.  

After Albertsons LLC acquired Safeway, our team updated our product packaging and brands and rolled those items out to all 2,300+ stores in the Albertsons Companies family. Since then we haven’t stopped. We have kicked innovation into high gear and are now launching over 800 new products each year. In the project to update our packaging for the new nutrition facts panels, we are also redesigning many of our brands and simplifying our brand portfolio. This project will be complete well ahead of the 2020 FDA compliance deadline.

ECRM: How do you keep tabs on emerging product trends to help in your sourcing efforts?
White: Our teams are constantly seeking new ideas and trends. We leverage every organization and person we work with to be our external army of idea generators. We encourage and actively solicit ideas from our suppliers, our shoppers, our stores, our family and friends. We constantly attend trade shows in the US and abroad, and we partner with several different information and market research agencies to help us identify emerging trends. We have a strong consumer insights organization that identifies consumer trends from our proprietary shopper data and conducts original research with our shoppers.

ECRM: How are you leveraging digital in your merchandising efforts?
White: Own Brands is engaging shoppers with our proprietary brands at every touchpoint from pre-shop, to the point of purchase in store (or on our ecommerce platform) as well as through continued engagement through post-shop touchpoints. Digital and social engagement are critical in each of these stages as the shopper’s decision-making process is evolving. While our merchandising efforts are central to driving sales, we are integrating out-of-store communication through digital offers on our loyalty platforms, with social media and recipe content, as well as through networks of influencers to build awareness, encourage trial and ultimately earn loyalty with own brands.

ECRM: What is the ideal you try to attain in your relationships with suppliers?
White: We encourage true partnerships with our suppliers. Neither of us can succeed without the other. First and foremost, we require our suppliers to deliver impeccable service to our stores and our shoppers. We strive to have an open and transparent relationship on costs with our key suppliers so that we can collaborate together to take costs out of the supply chain and get to the lowest possible prices for our consumers.  

We also work with suppliers to stay at the forefront of consumer trends with a best-in-class own brands portfolio. Our best suppliers recognize us as a leader in private label innovation and proactively bring us their new ideas. We have long-term business plans with our largest suppliers where we collaborate on consumer insights and research, combine them with current and future capabilities and map out a pipeline of co-developed products exclusive to our brand portfolio.

ECRM: Where do you see your category heading over the next three to five years?
White: The market dynamics continue to get better and better for our own brands. There is no longer a stigma about private label, and shoppers see our products as equivalent or better than national brands. National brands and CPG companies are not innovating or investing in their brands as quickly as we are able to, and can fall behind with shoppers.  

Younger consumers, in particular, have shown that they are even more accepting of own brands products than their parents and grandparents. This is a macro trend that will continue to drive share growth for private label in general. As this happens, retailers are going to be more and more dependent on their private label portfolios to differentiate themselves vs competition and attract and retain shoppers. We expect Albertsons Companies to have a long-term competitive advantage with our best in class Own Brands portfolio.

Wayne Bennett

Senior Vice President, Retail

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