Newly Appointed President and CEO, Anthony Hucker Reveals His Retail Strategy for Southeastern Grocers
JACKSONVILLE, FL - When it comes to Anthony Hucker’s plan to beat out Southeastern Grocers' competitors, it all comes down to one thing—making customers happy. Newly appointed as President and CEO after a few months as Southeastern Grocers’ interim leader in lieu of the exiting Ian McLeod, Hucker enters his new role at a time when the grocery business is fraught with competition. With economical uncertainty mounting as Amazon steps up to the plate and discount retailers continue to multiply, the Jacksonville Daily Record sat down with Hucker to delve deeper into his plans to navigate these choppy supermarket seas.
“You have to listen loudly, you have to listen really loudly, because your customers will tell you what it is they want,” Hucker tells the source, explaining that when retailers listen, customers will come back and will come back more loyal than ever.
In Hucker’s retail career, he has spent stints as President and CEO of Schnucks, President of Giant Food, Head of Walmart’s Strategy and Business Development Division, and 10 years building the ground floor of Aldi UK. Now, these big retail names are just a few of those he goes head to head with on a daily basis.
“If you talk to economists that are agnostic about industries, they would say that this is probably the toughest industry in the economy, bar none,” Hucker said last week at the company’s Baymeadows headquarters, according to the Daily Record. “It’s probably the toughest sector in the toughest segment of the toughest industry in the economy today.”
In just the past few weeks, the industry has seen major moves from Amazon and Whole Foods, remodeled stores from The Fresh Market and Publix, and new locations from Earth Fare, Aldi, Lidl, and Walmart—just to name a few.
“You always have to be alert to what the competition’s doing,” Hucker said. “I believe, No. 1, that our associates are our greatest asset; No. 2, that we put our customers first always; No. 3, we care about the community,” adding that No. 4 is providing stores that customers can trust to deliver quality, service and value daily.
Right now, we are in a deflationary environment, Hucker says, but will be turning into an inflationary one. Whereas businesses might lower prices to capture customers in a deflationary market, Hucker sees that transforming into increased sales in the third quarter.
“Some of those headwinds are turning into tailwinds as we go into the middle of the third quarter, and deflation will turn into inflation in quarter four,” explaining that he sees sales rising in the near future.
Training employees to put customers first is a sales increasing strategy that Hucker continues to turn to as he is interviewed by the Daily Record. The company’s greatest asset and “key differentiator,” he says, is its employees who will activate the mission of operating stores “with stunning fresh quality, with prices that compete, with an effective supply chain, working smartly, and selling the service with personality.”
For Southeastern Grocers, this also means changing its products. In February, the company announced it would roll out reformulate its private-label products, launching three new brands: SE Grocers Essentials, SE Grocers, and Prestige, offering customers a 20 to 30 percent discount on their groceries.
Southeastern Grocers employs an array of food technologists, whose job it is to reverse-engineer the raw materials of well-known brands and adjust the level of ingredients to suit customers’ preferences and create a new product. Hucker says the company’s tagline is, “If you can’t taste the difference, why pay the difference?”
Will these targeted attempts to breed customer loyalty pay off for Hucker as the company heads into one of the most tumultuous grocery markets in recent memory? AndNowUKnow will definitely be keeping a close eye on the ambitious retail vet as he continues steering the ship forward. To read Hucker's full interview with the Jacksonville Daily Record, click here.