Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

Interim Winn-Dixie CEO hopes to lead grocery chain into the future

RECOMMENDED READING


RUSKIN — The first time Anthony Hucker visited the Winn-Dixie grocery store in Ruskin, he was the company's chief operating officer. Nearly a year later, he returned to celebrate the store's recent renovation, this time as chief executive officer and president.

Hucker, 51, was named interim president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, Harveys, Bi-Lo and Fresco y Más grocery stores, in June after the company's former CEO, Ian McLeod, resigned to take a job with an Asian grocery chain. Hucker seems hopeful that the promotion would soon be permanent, pending the final decision by the grocery chain's board of directors.

"When Ian hired me, he wanted a No. 2, a right hand man," Hucker said during an interview with the Tampa Bay Times Thursday. "This was also part of his succession plan."

Related Coverage: CEO of Winn-Dixie's parent company steps down

Hucker has more than 18 years of experience in the grocery business. Prior to joining Southeastern Grocers, he was the COO of Schnucks, a supermarket chain in the Midwest, worked in Walmart's strategy and business development division and spent 10 years as part of the start up team for Aldi in the United Kingdom. Similar to McLeod, a native of Scotland, Hucker isn't originally from America. He's from Wales in the United Kingdom.

"Our paths never crossed until Southeastern Grocers," Hucker said about McLeod. "But I was introduced to him by a mutual party."

Hucker has worked at Southeastern Grocers for the last 18 months under McLeod. He said he was interested in the job because the company was much larger than the one he came from.

"Plus I get to live in Florida," he added.

When he interviewed with McLeod for the job, he said it lasted six hours.

"It was the longest interview I've ever done," Hucker said.

As a member of Southeastern Grocers' senior leadership team, Hucker says he's confident he can continue to implement the changes and strategies that began under McLeod.

"Over the last year, we've done 30 store remodels," Hucker said. "We're looking at the demographics around our stores and deciding which format works best in those communities."

A remodeled, more upscale Winn-Dixie debuted in South Tampa's Hyde Park district in October. The Ruskin store is the second remodeled store to open in the region. The remodeled stores are a way for Winn-Dixie, which has 500-plus stores including several dozen in the Tampa Bay area to better compete with many new organic and value-based grocer chains entering the market here.

Just this week, Southeastern Grocers announced it would be converting several Winn-Dixie stores in Central Florida, including one in Tampa, into Harveys Supermarkets. This will be the first time a Harveys will open in the Tampa Bay region.

Related Coverage: First Harveys Supermarket coming to Tampa, thanks to conversion of Winn-Dixie site

"We want to make sure we're offering the right assortment to the demographics we serve," he said.

Since Hucker joined the team, Southeastern Grocers launched the Hispanic brand Fresco Y Mas, a pilot chain of 18 grocery stores in South Florida. He said there are plans to expand it throughout Florida. Aside from store remodels, Winn-Dixie also tried to stand out on price by beefing up its private label brands and freezing prices on many staples.

Hucker emphasized the private label brands and a strong focus on prepared meals during a tour of the renovated Ruskin store Thursday.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

Comments
Some cities faced with all-or-nothing medical marijuana rules are playing it safe

Some cities faced with all-or-nothing medical marijuana rules are playing it safe

When it comes to weighing the options for regulating medical marijuana through the law passed this year, Dunedin city commissioners declared local governments face a "conundrum" and "a false dilemma."They said they would welcome a dispensary in the c...
Updated: 10 hours ago
A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

ST. PETERSBURG — Not all sinister toys are as obvious as a Chucky doll. Many present more subtle threats — choking hazards, high lead content, privacy concerns. And as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks off, consumer advocates are urging s...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

Indian automaker plant is latest sign of Detroit comeback

It has been years since Detroit, birthplace of the American auto industry, was a steady producer of the manufacturing jobs that defined it as the Motor City. But its comeback is entering a new phase.The latest milestone came this week, with the annou...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Associated PressWASHINGTON — Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend — but not by choice. Under court order, the industry for the first time will be forced to advertise the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

Ybor ’s first public school, long gone, still has a story to tell about district’s history

TAMPAIt’s been more than a century since Ybor City’s first public school was demolished on the plot of land now identified as 1311 E Eighth Ave.For the past 22 years, the popular concert venue New World Brewery took up the space and one next door. No...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

Barricades reinforce security for holiday events on St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront

ST. PETERSBURG — World and national tragedies are changing the city’s approach to security for special events at North Straub Park.With the approach of the holidays, concrete barricades have been erected at a section of the park’s perimeter, where Fo...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

Copa Airlines to fly daily nonstop from Tampa to Panama next summer

TAMPA — Panama’s Copa Airlines, which four years ago became the first airline to offer service between Panama and Tampa Bay, said it is increasing its nonstop service between Tampa International Airport and Panama City to daily flights starting in Ju...
Published: 11/21/17
Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Irma did not stop tourists from setting record visits to Florida so far in 2017

Despite Hurricane Irma, Florida hit another record high number in tourists visiting the state in the first nine months of this year, according to figures released this week.Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau, said 88.2 million visitors came to...
Published: 11/21/17
FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

FCC chairman unveils proposal to repeal net neutrality

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday followed through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally, setting up a showdown ...
Published: 11/21/17
Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

Crime Stoppers, Straz Foundation still working out Seminole Heights reward money

TAMPA — You can collect $110,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest in the Seminole Heights killings, but for now you’ll have to make two stops.The David A. Straz Foundation announced Monday it would contribute $10,000 to a reward f...
Published: 11/21/17