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Vitacost.com expands leadership

BY Allison Cerra

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Vitacost.com has appointed a new chief information officer/chief technology officer.

The online retailer of health-and-wellness products said Joseph Topper Jr. most recently SVP customer success for Rosetta Stone and served as the company’s first chief information officer from 2007 through 2009. Topper replaces former CIO Nachiket Desai

"We have been investing in our infrastructure to develop a world-class technology platform that will support our future growth and believe Jay’s leadership skills will help enable us to achieve our goals," Vitacost.com CEO Jeffrey Horowitz said. "Jay’s significant customer-centric, growth-oriented IT experience will play a key role in enhancing the customer experience and using technology to help drive our business."


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Tom Abbott’s role at Shopko expands

BY Allison Cerra

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Shopko’s SVP product development now has become responsible for overseeing the retailer’s consumables division.

Shopko said Tom Abbott’s new title is SVP product development/general merchandise manager of consumables. In this expanded role, Abbott will retain responsibility for product development, trend and sourcing. His previous oversight of the company’s textiles division will move to Shopko’s newly hired SVP/GMM home and hardlines, Craig Gourley, creating one senior merchant leader and vision for the home division.

Abbott, who has more than 40 years of experience in the retail industry, including 20 years at Shopko, has been the key strategist behind the company’s private-label brands program and has played an integral role in the development of Shopko’s hometown store merchandising strategy, Shopko said. Abbott will continue working on these initiatives as both the consumables and private-brand merchandise play a critical role in the growing hometown format, the retailer noted.

"This strategic move strengthens our important consumables team and business by positioning a direct senior leader in the division," Shopko EVP and chief merchandising officer Jill Soltau said. "As we look to drive sales of consumables in all of our formats, Tom’s wide-ranging experience, in-depth understanding of all aspects of retail, keen understanding of consumer behavior, as well as his track record of achieving significant results make him the perfect fit for driving our consumables business. We are excited to have Tom’s leadership over this important piece of our business."

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New leader at Supervalu is tip of turnaround iceberg

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Supervalu now is in full turnaround mode, and with the naming of Wayne Sales as CEO to lead the charge, analysts are saying the Canadian retail executive who helped turn around Canadian Tire is the right man for the job. But Supervalu still has plenty of heavy lifting to do.

(THE NEWS: Supervalu names new president, CEO. For the full story, click here)

Much of Wall Street was taken aback by the news: “The speed with which Supervalu’s business unraveled in Q1 was startling, particularly after business trends appeared to be showing a bit of stability during 4Q11,” Deutsche Bank analyst Charles Grom wrote. The news only brings further to light the significant competition for that share of stomach — not only are such traditional grocers as Walmart, Kroger and Safeway significant competitors, but the rollout of broader food selections and the emphasis on fresh in the drug, convenience and dollar channels also has taken its toll.

Supervalu will continue to implement sharper pricing for its consumers, and an emphasis on its deep-discount format Save-A-Lot also will continue. Though Save-A-Lot’s fundamentals also dropped over the first quarter, the deep-discount, limited-assortment grocery format is much more economic-recovery proof with prices coming in between a 30% and 40% discount to traditional grocers. However, Save-A-Lot isn’t the only deep discounter targeting the grocery trip — dollar stores increasingly are grabbing that deep-discount ticket.

Another challenge for Supervalu is its competition, competitors who won’t hesitate to respond to any increased marketing efforts from Minneapolis. Those marketing efforts are expected to give a boost to traffic, the challenge will be keeping shoppers coming back to Supervalu’s traditional grocer banners.

What do you think? Will Wayne Sales restore Supervalu’s position as a top grocer? Sound off in the comments below.

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