Winsight Live: Stew Leonard Jr. on Pricing, the Pandemic and Animatronics

CEO and president joins WGB's livestream

COVID-19 is forging “a different relationship” between retailers and shoppers while revealing  the benefits of a nimble, fresh food-focused business, Stew Leonard Jr., CEO of the fresh superstore chain Stew Leonard’s, said during a video interview conducted by WGB editorial staff and Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, held on Facebook on June 25.

Leonard, joined by Cristian Cruz, VP of the retailer’s Yonkers, N.Y., store, detailed fast-moving changes by the popular chain to meet customer needs during the crisis, noting that “animation was on vacation,” referring to the temporary decommissioning of the animatronic animals and other entertainment elements that helped to build the company’s reputation as a fun place to shop. However, he noted a continued focus on fresh foods, enabled by longstanding direct buying relationships that helped to keep pricing in line and employees who revealed themselves as “superstars,” helped the company navigate the crisis on a community-by-community basis, maintaining trust with shoppers and providing what he said was an advantage over centralized peers.

“My biggest management lesson is, there are pros and cons to both [centralized and decentralized], but when a crisis hits, it’s good to be decentralized,” Leonard said.


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