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Retailers express cautious optimism regarding holiday sales

BY Marianne Wilson

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly one-quarter (24%) of retailers expect a significant increase (5% or more) in year-over-year sales during the 2014 holiday season, while another 70% are predicting sales will be on par with the 2013 season, according to a survey by global management consultancy Hay Group.
 
The cautious optimism around sales is reflected in companies’ seasonal hiring plans. While most retailers (70%) plan to hire staff at 2013 levels, the emphasis has shifted from seasonal to permanent workers, with 24% of companies planning to hire more permanent staff in 2014, compared to just 13% last season.
 
Additionally, 59% of retailers said their omnichannel strategy has impacted the training they provide to their sales staff.
 
"Consumers now expect a seamless shopping experience across channels,” said Maryam Morse, national practice leader for Hay Group’s retail practice. “To respond to this demand, retailers must have well-trained and nimble in-store employees who can serve as true brand ambassadors, leading customers to the point-of-sale, regardless of where the product resides."
 
Many companies are shifting their holiday promotions earlier in the year. Fifty-three percent of retailers will begin promotions in either September or October this year.
 
Nearly half (47%) of retailers surveyed in 2014 have a clearly articulated omnichannel strategy, compared to only 14% in 2013. The majority of retailers (71%) will be relying, at least in part, on their mobile platform to help drive holiday sales.
 
“Retailers are stepping up to the omnichannel challenge this year in an effort to drive sales from what’s proving to be a very disciplined consumer,” said Craig Rowley, VP and global practice leader for Hay Group’s retail practice. “Even so, the 2014 holiday season is likely to be a testing ground for many large retailers as they try to get a better grasp on what today’s consumer is going to buy, where they’re going to buy it and how they want to receive it. Retailers who come out on top will be those with the flexibility to quickly adapt to customers’ needs across a variety of channels.”
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Albertsons, Safeway unveil new senior leadership team upon merger

BY Antoinette Alexander

BOISE, Idaho and PLEASANTON, Calif. — AB Acquisition LLC (Albertsons) and Safeway announced on Friday the new senior leadership team and division leaders for the combined company that will take effect upon the closing of the proposed merger transaction, which is pending customary regulatory approvals.

"We're drawing on the strong talent within both companies to build an innovative, customer-focused and growth-driven company," said Safeway president and CEO, Robert Edwards, who will serve as the combined company's president and CEO. "We are confident in this team's ability to build a great company that's positioned to win over the long term by earning the loyalty of grocery shoppers in every market we serve and delivering superior operational and financial results."

Safeway shareholders approved the proposed merger agreement on July 25, under which AB Acquisition LLC, an affiliate of Albertsons, will acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway. The transaction is under review by the Federal Trade Commission and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, pending FTC approval.

After regulatory approval and closing of the transaction, the new company will have the following leadership team:

  • Bob Gordon, EVP and general counsel
  • Shane Sampson, EVP, marketing and merchandising
  • Andy Scoggin, EVP, human resources, labor relations, public affairs and government affairs
  • Jerry Tidwell, EVP, supply chain and manufacturing
  • Lee Wilson, EVP and chief administrative officer
  • Bob Dimond, EVP and CFO, reporting to Wilson
  • Justin Ewing, EVP, corporate development and real estate, reporting to Wilson
  • Barry Libenson, interim EVP and CIO, reporting to Wilson. Libenson is expected to be with the new company through March 2015, at which time a successor will be named.
  • Wayne Denningham, EVP and COO, South Region
  • Justin Dye, EVP and COO, East Region
  • Kelly Griffith, EVP and COO, North Region

The new company will be comprised of three regions and 14 retail divisions. The company stated that it will keep the focus and financial responsibility at the division level, but take full advantage of the expertise, vision and core capabilities of the corporate team. The 14 divisions will be supported by corporate offices in Boise, Idaho; Pleasanton, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz.  Furthermore, no banner changes are planned. 

The division presidents for the new company, who will report to the COO for their respective regions, will be:

  • Dennis Bassler, Portland division, North Region
  • Paul McTavish, Denver division, North Region
  • Susan Morris, Intermountain division, North Region
  • Tom Schwilke, Northern California division, North Region
  • Dan Valenzuela, Seattle division, North Region
  • Shane Dorcheus, Southwest division, South Region
  • Scott Hayes, Southern division, South Region
  • Sidney Hopper, Houston division, South Region
  • Lori Raya, Southern California division, South Region
  • Robert Taylor, United division, South Region
  • Steve Burnham, Eastern division, East Region
  • Jim Perkins, Acme division, East Region
  • Jim Rice, Shaw's division, East Region
  • Mike Withers, Jewel-Osco division, East Region

"We know the best way to grow our business is to have the highest quality fresh departments, lower prices, clean, well-stocked stores and the best customer service in the market," said Bob Miller, Albertsons current CEO, who will become executive chairman of the combined company upon completion of the transaction. "Our teams will focus on delivering what customers want locally, and we will give our store teams more flexibility to make decisions that are right for their neighborhoods. The division teams will have the responsibility to have the right assortment for their markets."

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Walmart to increase holiday hiring by nearly 10%

BY Marianne Wilson

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart on Thursday said it plans to hire 60,000 temporary workers for the holiday season, an increase of nearly 10% from last year.
 
The discounter also said that current workers who want more hours during the holidays will receive priority.
 
“We are committed to making sure our customers can find the products they want for Christmas at low prices and can get through the checkout lanes quickly. To accomplish this we will have more registers than ever open during peak shopping hours between Black Friday and Christmas,” said Gisel Ruiz, COO, Walmart U.S.
 
The holiday hiring includes workers in stores and distribution centers.
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