Post Categories: July 2017

From Jim’s Desk: A Letter from the CEO


Don’t Muddle Along

I was at dinner recently and asked one of our retail partners what he thought his greatest learning in business has been—and he was quick to respond, “My greatest lesson is to know when to forget.” I found this to be profound—and a lesson many could (or should) take to heart.

The rate of change that our industry is facing is unprecedented. From Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, to Aldi’s rapid expansion in the United States, to Walmart investing a billion dollars or more in price reductions to compete—the headline-making changes are fast and furious these days. If you look at just one example of the rapid change taking place, check out German retailer Lidl. They opened their first stores in the U.S. last month and are planning on opening 80 to 100 more along the East Coast by next year. Currently they have 10,000 stores in 27 European countries, so they are no small player. In their opening weeks, they have already become a threat to traditional retailers offering customers lower prices, an easy to navigate store layout, locally sourced items and a positive shopper experience.

There’s also a key differentiator that Lidl offers, which was perfectly outlined by the Winston-Salem Journal’s coverage on the store opening: “Lidl focuses on selling its own private-label brands. The store’s inventory is 90 percent private-label goods… So whereas a traditional store may have to have shelf space for 12 brands of pasta sauce, Lidl just needs space for only one brand — its own.” This clearly synthesized recipe for success isn’t from a retail industry publication. It comes from the local newspaper that writes for and is read by Lidl’s own shoppers. Every retailer in America should take heed—what our industry has been grappling with is now mainstream, and is distilled in black and white print reflecting our daily news.

So, forget what you know and what you’d like to hold on to. Because life in the retail space is changing faster than you can read this month’s issue. It’s no longer a choice to do the same thing and survive.

What are your challenges? Let’s continue the conversation—email me anytime at

All the best,

Jim Holbrook
Chief Executive Officer