Supervalu names new president, CEO

MINNEAPOLIS — Supervalu on Monday named Wayne Sales, a Canadian hall-of-fame-caliber retailer, as the company's president and CEO, replacing Craig Herkert.

“In my new role, I will work closely with our leadership team to improve our sales and earnings trajectory and generate long-term shareholder value, focusing relentlessly on identifying factors that will drive meaningful improvements in our strategy execution and overall performance,” Sales stated.

“We will take significant cost out of the business and move with urgency in our retail food business to lower prices and create points of sustainable differentiation for our customers," he continued. "We will work closely and collaboratively with independent retailers to ensure that they continue to receive the superior service they need to increase sales and profitability. ... As we execute our business plan, the board will continue its review of strategic alternatives, and I am still leading that process.”

The move comes following a disappointing first-quarter performance. Earlier this month Supervalu reported a net sales decline of 4.5% to $10.6 billion for its first quarter ended June 16, with a net earnings drop of 44.6% to $41 million, or 19 cents per diluted share — well below the analyst consensus of 38 cents per share.

Supervalu announced a number of dramatic measures to stabilize its business — reduction in capital spending, suspension of the company's dividend, even the exploration of possible strategic alternatives — in conjunction with its declining first-quarter earnings results.

"Supervalu could become the next casualty in the troubled supermarket space, as its fundamentals have finally begun to show real signs of distress after years of steady underperformance," commented Credit Suisse research analyst Ed Kelly in a research note published the morning Supervalu released its first-quarter results. "The company’s uncompetitive price position, the weak consumer and increased competitive activity combined [have] more significantly pressure[d] sales and margins."

A director of Supervalu since 2006, and nonexecutive chairman of the board since 2010, Sales, 62, is the retired vice chairman of Canadian Tire Corp. — one of Canada’s largest general merchandise retailers and the country's largest independent gasoline retailer — which he led as president and CEO from 2000 to 2006.

At Canadian Tire, Sales led the development and implementation of the first enterprise strategic plan, which included the creation of transformational strategies for Canadian Tire Retail, Canadian Tire Financial Services, Canadian Tire Petroleum and Parts Source, and the acquisition of Mark’s Work Warehouse. Sales also leveraged Canadian Tire’s value proposition to reposition the corporation in the face of entry of key U.S. competitors. Sales' accomplishments earned him several industry awards, including Distinguished Retailer of the Year in 2004 by the Retail Council of Canada and CEO of the Year by Canadian Business Magazine in 2005. In 2009, Sales also was inducted into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends.

Sales’ retail executive experience spans more than 35 years. Prior to joining Canadian Tire in 1991, he served in several senior leadership positions with the U.S. division of Kmart in the areas of marketing, merchandising and store operations.

Sales is a director and chair of the Compensation Committee of Tim Hortons, the fourth-largest publicly traded quick-service restaurant chain in North America based on market capitalization. Given his intention to focus full attention on his new role at Supervalu, Sales will retire from his board positions with Georgia Gulf Corp., a leading integrated North American manufacturer of chemicals and vinyl-based building and home improvement products, and Discovery Air, a specialty aviation company.

Sales will continue to serve as chairman, and director Philip Francis has been elected lead director.

Francis, 65, brings to his role as lead director significant retail industry experience, as well as experience in business strategy as a senior executive of a large public company. A Supervalu director since 2006, Francis is the retired executive chairman of PetSmart. Francis transitioned to the role of executive chairman in 2009, following his retirement as CEO at PetSmart, a position he held from 1999 to 2009. Prior to joining PetSmart, Francis was the president and CEO of Shaw’s Supermarkets. He also continues to be a director of PetSmart, as well as CareFusion Corp., a leading global medical device company.