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In true hedgehog fashion, Walgreens taps an experienced pro to lead merchandising

RadioShack on Thursday evening tapped Joe Magnacca, who played a key role in making Walgreens' front-end transformation pop, to be the small-box electronics retailer's chief executive. On Friday morning, RadioShack's shares jumped as Wall Street absorbed the news. 

And while that hire makes perfect sense for RadioShack, where does that leave Walgreens? While merchants the likes of Magnacca don't exactly grow on trees, in classic hedgehog style the news also speaks to the depth of Walgreens' bench. The company has a lot of faith in Bryan Pugh. They hired him to be chief merchant before they bought Duane Reade and acquired a problem just about any retailer would love to have: two very talented men leading the merchandising drive. 

In other words, don't expect Walgreens to skip a beat. Last year when DSN had camped out within the executive suites at Walgreens to get some first-hand perspective on what was really happening on the corner of happy and healthy, Pugh shared a vivid picture as to how savvy merchants keep evolving their game: "You’ve got to skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been.” 

It's a beautiful analogy that really does capture the essence of retailing. You've got to keep an eye on the puck, or it'll be cherry-picked onto the end of the competition's stick. And while you've got your eye on the puck, you still have to know what's happening all around you, or you risk being boarded by another competitor. 

Pugh has that 360-degree vision. 

He came to Walgreens in 2009 from Tesco's Fresh and Easy USA where he was COO and SVP operations. He also has experience working in big-box retail and club.  

"It's all about measuring and making sure you get the model right," Pugh told DSN regarding remodels and making the front-of-store a product borne out of consumer needs. 

Walgreens will still be playing five-on-five now that Pugh is taking his place on center ice. Walgreens will still be lighting the lamp with their customers across beauty, wellness and fresh. 

Because Pugh has strength across his bench, too. 

“I am very thankful that we have a very solid merchandising team with solid leadership in the GMM roles: Shannon Curtin on beauty, personal needs and seasonal; Robert Tompkins on health and wellness; and Steve Broughton in food and convenience goods," he told DSN. "Our category managers and category specialists are making tremendous progress over the last year, and we are looking forward to continuing to change the traditional drug store into a health and daily living destination.”


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