Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ex-Trader Joe's VP, Winn-Dixie Exec Larry Biggerstaff New Director of Grocery at Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market

The Tesco corporate flag flies at full staff over corporate headquarters in Cheshunt, United Kingdom. With divisions and stores in Europe, Asia and the United States, the sun seldom sets on the Tesco flag.

Breaking Buzz -- and Analysis

Rather than replacing its former director of grocery buying and merchandising, Sean McCurley, with an executive from its United Kingdom headquarters, Tesco has hired Larry Biggerstaff, a grocery buying and merchandising executive and manager with extensive experience in the U.S. food and grocery retailing industry, as the new director of grocery at El Segundo, California-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA, Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned.

We broke the news of former grocery director McCurley's departure, to return to Tesco in the United Kingdom, in a May 2010 story, which you can read here: May 23, 2010 - Director of Grocery Sean McCurley Leaving Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market to Return to Tesco in the UK.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy has been without a director of grocery since then.

Since Sean McCurley's departure months ago, there's been considerable speculation in certain circles in the UK and U.S. that Tesco would replace him with someone from its UK headquarters. But that's not the case...this time around.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market hasn't announced the hiring of Biggerstaff as its director of grocery.

Larry Biggerstaff hasn't personally announced his new job or new employer yet either. For example, on his profile page, as of the time (10:02 pm) this story was published today, he has listed as his current position the 'to be announced' as shown below (in italics) directly from the Linked-In page:

Larry Biggerstaff
Grocery Executive at TBA - September 2010
Greater Los Angeles Area

Prior to accepting the position as director of grocery with Tesco's Fresh & Easy, Biggerstaff was the vice president of merchandising at Morovia, California-headquartered Trader Joe's, although his time with the iconic Southern California-based grocery chain of about 315 stores was brief.

Before joining Trader Joe's, Larry Biggerstaff was senior director of grocery, dairy, frozen, alcohol and tobacco at Jacksonville, Florida-based supermarket chain Winn-Dixie. In that position he had overall responsibility for all of the chain's buying and merchandising in those respective categories. Before assuming the senior director position at Winn Dixie, he was the director of category management at the chain.

While at Winn-Dixie, Biggerstaff, who attended Western Michigan University, graduated from the 'Retail Masters Program,' class of 2008, sponsored by the Florida Retail Federation.

Biggerstaff has also worked as a category manager for mass-merchandise chain Target, and as a category manager and logistics director for Walmart's Sam's Club membership warehouse chain.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy divides its corporate grocery buying and merchandising function (which it calls 'commercial,' using the British industry term) into two functional areas, grocery (which it calls ambient, again using the British industry term) and fresh (for fresh foods). We use U.S. industry terminology in Fresh & Easy Buzz.

The fresh department includes produce, meat and deli/fresh-prepared foods. Grocery includes all ambient packaged grocery and non-foods products, along with beer, wine and spirits. Packaged perishables like frozen food also are part of grocery.

John Burry, who is one of the original Tesco UK transplants who came to America to start up Fresh & Easy in 2006-2007, is the senior executive in charge of the grocery merchandising and buying (commercial) function at the fresh food and grocery chain, which is based in El Segundo, California, and has 163 stores, with five new units opening on September 15 (2 stores) and September 22 (3 units). Four new stores opened on September 8.

In December 2009, Jim Jensen, the former director of fresh at Fresh & Easy, left the chain to take a job heading up Walgreen Drug Co.'s new fresh foods program, joining former Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market senior vice president of retail operations Brain Pugh, who had previously joined the drug chain to head up its expanded grocery merchandising and retailing efforts.

We broke that news of Jim Jensen's departure, and his joining Walgreens, in this story - Breaking Buzz: Corporate Director of Fresh Foods Jim Jensen Leaves Tesco's Fresh & Easy - on January 6, 2010. Also see this story - January 21, 2010: Walgreens Announces Hiring of Former Fresh & Easy Fresh Foods Director Jim Jensen; Confirms Our January 6 Report.

Additionally, Fresh & Easy Buzz was the first publication of any kind to report on Brian Pugh's sudden departure from Tesco's Fresh & Easy in this September 22, 2008 story: Key Personnel Breaking News: Co-Vice President of Retail Operations Brian Pugh No Longer Employed At Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

Pugh was hired by Walgreens in late 2008. See our stories - December 22, 2008: Breaking News: Mega-Drug Chain Walgreens Hires Former Tesco Fresh & Easy USA VP of Operations Brian Pugh For New VP of Format Development Position and March 2, 2009: Walgreens Promotes Former Tesco Fresh & Easy Exec Bryan Pugh to VP Merchandising Position; Move Fits Drug Chain's Current Strategic Focus - for details.

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market replaced Jim Jensen as director of fresh foods, who spent all of his career in the U.S. retail food-grocery and convenience store industry, including working as a category manager for 7-Eleven, with Tim Lee, who prior to coming to Fresh & Easy earlier this year was a long time category executive and manager at Tesco's headquarters in the UK. The Fresh & Easy position is Lee's first in the U.S.

Tim Lee's specialty at Tesco's corporate headquarters in the UK, where he was a produce category procurement director, was fresh produce. There Lee and another Tesco produce category procurement director, Alex Dower, launched Tesco's global fresh produce sourcing buying and supply chain initiative in about mid-2009. The initiative focuses on direct procurement of fresh produce for Tesco stores in the UK and continental Europe. Lee's responsibilities included setting up satellite offices in growing and sourcing regions around the world and staffing the offices with technical specialists and produce buying teams.

Lee was a key force behind Tesco's buyout of Fresh & Easy's produce and meat suppliers, Wild Rocket Foods (fresh produce) and 2 Sisters Food group (fresh meat), earlier this year. The buyout, which Tesco director and Fresh & Easy Neighborhood market CEO Tim Mason said cost "tens of millions of dollars"happened shortly after Lee arrived at Fresh & Easy from Tesco UK and assumed the director of fresh position.

Lee is also a key force behind Fresh & Easy's recent (July 2010) expansion of its 'Farm to Store in 24' locally-grown produce program. Direct procurement (think the the Wild Rocket buyout) and locally-grown produce (think 'Farm to Store in 24') were two of the programs Tim Lee worked on and developed in his position at Tesco UK. [Read: June 21, 2010: The Missing Link in Tesco's Purchase of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Meat Supplier '2 Sisters Food Group' and June 9, 2010: Key 'Veteran' Fresh Produce Category Manager Chris Harris Leaves Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market]

After Sean McCurley left Fresh & Easy to return to Tesco in the UK, we suggested Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market replace him with a director of grocery who has extensive experience in the U.S., particularly in the Western U.S. and especially in California. The grocery chain has done that to a significant degree, although Larry Biggerstaff's experience in the Western USA is limited. But it is in the U.S.

Former director of fresh foods, Jim Jensen, has a U.S. food and grocery retailing background. His replacement, Tim Lee, has a United Kingdom industry background.

Former director of grocery, Sean McCurley, has a UK-only background, while Larry Biggerstaff has spent his entire career in the U.S.

All things being equal (like individualism and performance), perhaps Tesco has found a good balance in its new (Biggerstaff) and fairly new (Lee) directors of grocery and fresh foods. One (Lee) has Tesco experience and the other (Biggerstaff) has a long track record of experience in U.S. food and grocery retailing.

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