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Save-on-Foods’ executive shuffle hives off More Rewards program; heightens focus on pharmacy and e-commerce

170-store grocery chain plans to open seven more stores by next year
Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones pushes a cart of groceries that customers have ordered online for pick-up | Chung Chow

What happened: The Jim Pattison Group’s 170-store Save-on-Foods division has shaken up its executive team in a bid to boost the company’s focus on its More Rewards program, as well as on its pharmacy and e-commerce capacity, Save-on-Foods president Darrell Jones told Business in Vancouver October 2.

Why it matters: The Jim Pattison Group, 100% owned by 91-year-old billionaire Jim Pattison, is the largest B.C.-based private company. Executive changes today may in future have an effect on how the conglomerate is run. Strategic changes in its large grocery division may also impact other retailers.

The biggest move that Save-On-Foods made was to hive off its More Rewards loyalty program into a separate operating unit – although that unit still reports to Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones.

Dan Howe moves into the role of president of More Rewards and his aim will be to rapidly expand the loyalty program, which today provides members with benefits when they shop at Save-On-Foods, but also corporate partners such as Coast Hotels and Panago Pizza.

Howe had been vice president of marketing and More Rewards, so he has gained a higher rank in the executive structure while no longer being focused broadly on marketing. The expectation, Jones said, is that he will expand the program.

“At the moment he will continue to report to me,” said Jones, who reports directly to Jim Pattison Group president Glen Clark.

“The goal is for us to eventually move ourselves to [More Rewards] being a completely separate operating division,” Jones said.

The Jim Pattison Group has interests in media, signs, automotive dealerships, forest products and many other sectors in addition to groceries. It has 20,021 employees based B.C. and is the largest company that has operations outside B.C. ranked by the number of B.C.-based employees.

Splintering off the More Rewards part of Save-On-Foods could be the start of a significant new foray for the company.

Other significant executive moves at Save-On-Foods hint at that division being more focused on pharmacy items, and on e-commerce.

Jones promoted Brenda Kirk to senior vice-president of health, wellness, and what the company calls its "own brands." She had been vice-president of innovation and "private brands."

“It’s a bigger focus we have on the health and beauty side of the business,” Jones said. “You’ll see a lot more beauty care, and natural supplements – that whole side of the business will be enhanced.”

Wayne Curie will continue to oversee the e-commerce side of the business but he will do it as senior vice-president of I.T., supply chain and e-commerce. He had been responsible for the area under the more general title of senior vice-president of I.T.

“E-commerce and supply chain are really critical to us,” Jones said. “This emphasizes the focus.”

The company’s supply-operations are will be headed by newly promoted managing director Joe Stelnicki.

Some of the other changes include the new executive rank of regional vice-president for what had been regional general managers.

Paul Cope, for example, is now vice-president of Save-On-Foods B.C., and oversees all aspects of operations for the company’s B.C. stores. He had been the B.C. regional general manager.

Ben Harrack, similarly, is now vice-president of Save-On-Foods, Prairies, and is responsible for all aspects of the company’s operations outside of B.C., which extend as far east as Manitoba and north to the Yukon. He had been the general manager of that region.

Another move impacts the new executive vice-president of Save-On-Foods, Jamie Nelson. He had been executive vice-president of retail.

Nelson now oversees:

•marketing, led by managing director Gillian Yorke;

•public affairs and corporate social responsibility, led by managing director Julie Dickson;

•people and communications, led by vice-president Heidi Ferriman;

•merchandising and inventory management, led by senior vice-president Mike Olson;

•health, innovation and private brands, led by senior vice-president Brenda Kirk; and

•real estate and store development, led by vice-president Frank Picard.

Save-on-Foods plans to open its 171st store in Steveston, in Richmond, later this year. That is one of at least seven stores that the company plans to open by the end of next year.

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