An essential service provider, grocery was one sector deeply impacted by COVID-19. Overnight, food retailers were forced to embrace a new reality: scared customers, scared store employees, and a supply chain being pushed to the brink.

The industry leapt into action, implementing safety measures in-store; accelerating curbside pickup and delivery programs; communicating with customers about product shortages; and, perhaps most importantly, reassuring them that they would continue to provide essential food and supplies.

No wonder March 2020 seems like a lifetime ago.

While grocery has experienced important growth in the past year, so too have the individuals within it, like the trailblazers with whom WGB recently connected to reflect upon the past year, lessons learned and brighter times ahead.

By Jennifer Strailey


Talk about trial by fire. Neil Stern became CEO of Good Food Holdings in October 2020, eight months into the pandemic. WGB asked Stern what it has been like to assume a leadership role during a pandemic, and if COVID changed the way he leads.

Lessons in Leading

It was Friday the 13th, March 2020, when everything changed for David Schaefer, store director of the Lazy Acres in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and his customers. “It was an all-day battle to keep up with demand, serving our customers, managing stock levels, throwing loads—it never stopped,” he says.

Coming Together

In the year since COVID, the pace of change has been equally demanding. The sense of urgency for grocers to implement social distancing measures, limit the number of people in a store at a given time, and bring in new suppliers to keep the shelves stocked was real and ever-present.

New Connections

More than lessons learned in 2020, Keith Knopf, president and CEO of West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s Supermarkets, is struck by the strength of an industry and its customers’ ability to weather the tremendous challenges of the past year.

Reflections in Resiliency

A Look Back

From day one of the pandemic, WGB provided around-the-clock coverage of the unprecedented events facing the industry.

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