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Rite Aid shuffles executives in HR, operations departments

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid announced Thursday changes in its human resources and operations departments.

The 4,700-store chain named Brian Fiala as EVP human resources and Robert Thompson as EVP store operations. Rite Aid also appointed Bill Romine as SVP of the chain’s Western division.

Fiala previously served as EVP store operations, having joined the company in 2007 after working for 24 years at Target. He replaces Steve Parsons, who is leaving the company to take another position, and will report to president and CEO John Standley.

Thompson will replace Fiala as EVP store operations, reporting to COO Ken Martindale. Thompson began at Rite Aid in 2007 and has been responsible for operations at the more than 850 stores the company operates in the Western United States. Before joining Rite Aid, he worked at Target for 20 years.

Romine, formerly group VP for Metro New York, will replace Thompson. Romine joined Rite Aid in 1996 when the company acquired the Thrifty PayLess drug store chain; he began working for PayLess in 1976, starting as a cashier and working his way up to store manager.

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With flat June sales, Fred’s expects Q2 to be at low end of projected range

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred’s on Thursday reported sales of $179 million for the five weeks ended July 2, representing a relatively flat 0.1% increase, compared with the year-ago period.

Comparable-store sales for the month dropped 0.7%, compared with an increase of 1.7% in the same period last year.

"June sales reflected the volatility experienced with our customers’ purchase patterns and demonstrated the broader decline in consumer sentiment that has been reported for the month,” Fred’s CEO Bruce Efird said. “After a solid start in the first half of June, we saw a significant downward adjustment in the last half of the month as customer traffic remained positive but our average customer ticket declined. Another example of the challenging economy was seen in the paycheck cycle, which was very pronounced in the final weeks of the month, but the sales on July 1 were the highest single-day amount for the year,” he said. “Because of less-than-expected May and June sales, we now expect second-quarter earnings to be at the low end of our forecasted range."

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Shoppers continue to alter purchasing behaviors amid rising gas prices

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Nearly 80% of consumers plan to offset the burden of rising gas prices by altering their shopping behaviors, according to new research.

The survey, conducted by market information leader TNS, also found that 35% of respondents are removing items from their "typical" grocery list to save money. Other ways consumers are saving money is by purchasing private-label items over national brands (30%) and opting to shop at discount outlets over traditional retail outlets (32%).

"Shoppers are careful and watchful of their money, and given the overall level of uncertainty about the economy, it’s not a surprise to us to see consumers rein in their spending on groceries," TNS SVP Dan Boehm said. "Even as gas prices have receded a little from their peak, our research shows consumers are adjusting their grocery shopping patterns to manage a more uncertain conservative purchase environment. More than ever, grocery retailers need to clearly articulate the value proposition they give their shoppers as shoppers make fewer trips per week, buy less and look for discounts."

For marketers of private-label products, Boehm noted that consumers see private label as having an "equal or greater value" and suggested that based on these behaviors, marketers should "communicate why their brands are superior. They should continue to make being visible in the store a priority," he said.

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