ARLINGTON, VA — April 14, 2011 — The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced today nine finalists in FMI’s 12th annual Store Manager Awards competition. Three grand prize winners will be selected from the finalists and announced on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 during the Future Connect leadership conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, TX.

“Successful store managers are not only committed to increasing sales and profits, they are equally committed to customer satisfaction and improving the communities they serve,” said FMI President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie G. Sarasin. “We are very proud to recognize all of the finalists of the FMI Store Manager Awards for demonstrating operational excellence, outstanding customer service and innovative community service.”   

The finalists were selected based on their ability to develop programs that achieved positive growth and customer satisfaction in their stores during the past 12-18 months. The finalists are also recognized for:

  • Proven ability to lead, mentor and motivate associates

  • Demonstrating a balance between people skills and operational skills

  • Communicating company goals and store milestones to associates

  • Executing innovative in-store programs and/or special events that improve overall customer service and community
  • Improving the financial performance of the store

One grand prize winner will be chosen from each of three categories by size of the company: Category A (1-49 stores); Category B (50-199 stores); and Category C (200 or more stores). The list of finalists:

Category A:

  • Shawn Commons, store manager at PriceRite Supermarket in Reading, PA

  • Tom Gordon, store manager at Byerly’s in Maple Grove, MN

  • Bill Skeard, store manager at The Gardens in Corner Brook, NL, Canada

Category B:

  • Ray Brose, store manager at Sweetbay Supermarket in Cape Coral, FL
  • Allan Bussey, store director at Brookshire Grocery Co. in Tyler, TX

  • Tracey Hershenhorn, store manager at Shelburne Road Price Chopper Supermarket in Burlington, VT

Category C:

  • Kristi Masterson, store director at Hy-Vee, Inc. in Sioux Falls, SD

  • Rusty Stewart, store manager at The Kroger Company in Newnan, GA

  • Ray Waldrop, store director at BI-LO Supermarket in Rock Hill, SC

Finalists were selected based on stories submitted from their supervisors or store associates. The entries were judged on originality and creativity and the person’s impact on sales growth, customer satisfaction and community service.

All nine finalists will receive two complimentary registrations for Future Connect and three nights of hotel accommodations in Dallas. The three grand prize winners will each receive a $1,000 prize and a crystal award.
The 2010 grand prize winners were Dave McCleery, Russ’s Market, Lincoln, NE; Sharon Boyett, Brookshire Grocery Co., Monroe, LA; and Molly Stiles, The Kroger Company, Farragut, TN.

More detailed information on the nine finalists for the FMI Store Manager Awards follows:

Category A

Shawn Commons is the store manager at PriceRite Supermarket in Reading, PA. In his three years as store manager, Commons has concentrated on building and nurturing a young, highly motivated store team that reflects the community it serves: more than 60 percent of his employees are Hispanic with bilingual capabilities. Commons’ team has increased sales and profitability each year, including 2010 when his store exceeded $19 million in annual sales and approached the million dollar mark in net income. Throughout his tenure, a majority of his key management positions have been filled through internal promotions. Commons’ business philosophy is to make sure that his customers and his store associates know they are the store’s greatest asset. The annual PriceRite Customer Satisfaction Survey measures the store’s ability to satisfy customers as well as motivate, reward and recognize store associates. Commons’ store has continuously ranked first or second among 46 stores in the company-wide survey. He consistently reaches out to the community to support national and local charities, including the Hispanic Heritage Festival stationed in the store parking lot. More than 2,000 people attended and helped raise money for Reading, PA charities. Commons and his management team also participate in a local school’s career day, highlighting supermarket operations and exposing students to the many career opportunities available within the industry.

Tom Gordon, store manager at Byerly’s in Maple Grove, MN, believes that challenging and empowering his management team sets the stage for current and future sales growth. Using the weekly advertising circular and event templates as starting points, Gordon encourages his associates to build sales through aggressive merchandising, cross-merchandised displays, passive samplings and product demonstrations. By closely monitoring and managing labor hours based on sales, Gordon has been able to achieve positive gross after payroll (GAP) trends in the past year and excellent results for Q1 of 19.2 percent over the previous year. Knowing that his customers are focusing more on health and wellness, Gordon partners with area businesses to highlight how to eat healthy with in-store cooking demonstrations, nutrition talks, store tours and even a “Meet the Pharmacist” day to discuss pharmacy services available at his store. He begins every day by visiting each department to share sales information and operational opportunities. Gordon has created a cross-functional workforce to prepare his employees for career growth within the company. Nearly one-third of his associates have the skills to work outside their primary department and he has created a succession tree to ensure he is developing his staff for future leadership positions.

Bill Skeard is the store manager at The Gardens, a Coleman Group of Companies, in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada. Skeard started in the grocery business as a stock clerk when he was a 14-year-old student. In 2009, he was selected to manage Coleman’s largest and newest store, The Gardens, in part because he has a reputation for stellar execution. He focuses on building his team into a cohesive unit by training staff, mentoring the inexperienced with the experienced, coaching and encouraging. One part of his mission is to offer customers a superior shopping experience in a pristine environment. He implemented a program to have cashiers stand in front of the checkouts inviting customers to their lanes. His store regularly schedules live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Understanding how to reach customers is also important to Skeard. He offers a regular and free taxi service to students at a nearby university two evenings a week. Under his leadership, Skeard’s store exceeded budget on both sales and gross margin in its first full fiscal year in 2010. Its net operating expenses were under budget by 1.5 percent and at year’s end, the store’s Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) was better than budget by 35 percent.

Category B

Allan Bussey is the store director at Brookshire Grocery Co. in Tyler, TX. He is recognized as one of the company’s most distinguished and respected leaders, known for his store operational skills and his own special brand of finesse in leading, mentoring and motivating people. Bussey has mentored six associates who are now store directors, and eight employees from his staff have been promoted into management positions just this year. He believes that delegating properly by entrusting and empowering associates enhances their self-esteem and confidence, and that is directly reflected in sales and profits. For the October through December 2010 period, the store produced a 3.23 percent sales increase and a 8.31 percent gross profit increase over the previous year, with Thanksgiving sales jumping 6.68 percent and Christmas week soaring 17.85 percent. Indicative of Bussey’s operating skills, his contribution to overhead numbers showed an 18.95 percent increase for the period while his net profit for the quarter produced an astounding 203.36 percent increase over the previous quarter. He understands the value of community involvement, both in building customer loyalty and fostering team-building. His team is active in several community events including the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, United Way Day of Caring, Fit City Day to encourage healthy eating and many more.

Tracey Hershenhorn is the store manager of the Price Chopper Supermarket in Burlington, VT. She started at Price Chopper 18 years ago as a seafood manager and worked her way up the ladder to be named a store manager in 2004. She has since successfully managed four stores of varying size, earning the respect of teammates at all levels. Her leadership and dedication are hallmarks of her management style. She has mentored and coached five management trainees who are now successful store managers. Hershenhorn’s business skills are evident in the consistent sales growth at her store, which is among the top five stores in the chain in size and volume. She has a keen sense of what her customers want, proposing an expanded wine cellar and walk-in beer den. The result was one of the largest beverage centers in the state, which includes a sommelier to oversee daily operations and soaring sales. Hershenhorn created a supermarket sweep game to add theater to the shopping experience. Associates and customers team up to race throughout the store, filling a cart with items from a list. The fastest team wins the groceries in the cart. Her store works diligently to give back to the community by sponsoring a city Easter egg hunt, various festivals and events, including Bar-B-Qs and chili cook-offs. They also raised funds for a monument at the state veteran’s cemetery to honor Vermonters who lost their lives in the war in the Middle East.

Ray Brose is the store manager at Sweetbay Supermarket in Cape Coral, FL. He is nominated for his calm yet strong leadership style and for being an outstanding brand ambassador for Sweetbay, creating a very welcoming environment for customers. Brose was named a store manager two years ago and in that short amount of time, has progressed to become a recognized leader within his company. His store achieved comparable sales of 24.21 percent last year on top of double-digit comps the year before. He invests in the development of high performers by providing intense and detailed training. In addition to leading and mentoring two assistant managers in his store, Brose promoted four associates to management positions in 2010. His store is actively involved with many community organizations including schools, local sports teams, and the local blood mobile. Brose’s store partnered with Purina to help purchase a K-9 dog for the local police department. The store is also a partner with the Southwest Florida Council for the Blind, helping members navigate his store and assisting them in shopping.

Category C

Kristi Masterson is the store director at Hy-Vee in Sioux Falls, SD. She is recognized for demonstrating great respect for others and giving her associates every opportunity to succeed. Masterson’s store relocated a few years ago to a building twice the size of the old store. She not only made the move successfully, she was able to increase sales by 31 percent in the first year after the move. Masterson personally conducts reviews of approximately 125 regular and full-time employees. She believes that her job is not only about sales and profits but growing new leaders too. Three of her managers have gone on to run their own stores. She gives department managers free reign to plan promotions and sales, offering guidance only when needed. Her leadership extends into the community, working with Junior Achievement, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and other community groups. She is a strong believer in teaching kids the importance of healthy, active lifestyles and has successfully increased participation in the area’s Kids Triathlon for the last two years.

Rusty Stewart is the store manager of The Kroger Company store in Newnan, GA. Stewart is recognized for excelling as an experienced, motivating and impactful store manager. He challenges himself and his store team on how to improve the associates’ work experience and the customers’ shopping experience. Working for The Kroger Company for more than 30 years, Stewart takes personal ownership in his store, which continues to grow sales by 8 to 10 percent a year, as well as increase store profits. His team has weekly board meetings to discuss opportunities in the store. He empowers his associates to take care of each and every customer. Stewart mentors both co-managers and store managers throughout his district. He promoted three of his co-managers this past year as well as four other employees who were promoted to department head positions. His desire to give back to the community is shown by the many charities and organizations he and his store support including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, United Way and the Coweta County Assistance to the Blind. One of the highlights of the year for Stewart is when he plays Santa to more than 150 local children in the community.

Ray Waldrop is the store director at BI-LO Supermarket in Rock Hill, SC. He is recognized for his passion to succeed and creating a culture that produces positive growth, satisfied customers and a solid relationship with the community. He has been a store director for 13 years. Under Waldrop’s leadership, the recent grand opening of his store realized a 40.2 percent increase in sales and a $1.7 million earnings increase over the store it replaced. He works closely with his team, empowering them to run their area of the business while teaching them accountability and ownership. Waldrop has a history of developing leaders from his team. His store serves as the district training center for new managers. It is notable that five of the 11 store directors in his district worked as co-managers for him and the top three co-managers in the district were also trained by him. Many people say that it is his high standards that motivate his team to achieve exceptional results, yet he is always quick with a thank you or to comment on a great job. Waldrop has built a relationship with his neighborhood and partnered with many organizations including a festival to raise money for a substance abuse service to help students and their families; Relay for Life to raise money to fight cancer; and a car wash and hot dog sale to help fund a local school’s music program.