Rita Khijakadze Store Manager Award Finalist

Category D: (International), Finalist

Rita Khijakadze

SPAR Georgia
Tbilisi, Georgia

If imitation is the finest form of flattery, Rita Khijakadze has a lot of admirers. A constant innovator, she has launched several “firsts” at her SPAR store that were emulated and implemented by other locations in Georgia.

For example, the daily motivational speech and accompanying animated huddle that she started at her store as a way to educate and motivate employees caught the attention of company leaders and were later deployed across the chain. Additionally, to make the shopping experience easier for shoppers, Rita has taken steps to alleviate issues related to queuing and her store will be the first in Georgia to test a self-checkout system. In tandem with that technology-based advancement, she introduced humorous inscriptions for employees to wear on their uniforms during busy times as a way to make shoppers smile and ease their frustrations.

Another first was the posting of a QR code in-store so shoppers can provide real-time feedback on their experience. That tech advancement, too, is now being distributed across the company as a way for stores to address issues and continually improve their operations.

Rita has shown a prescient knack for the food retailing business from her first days as an intern. Based on her results, she was steadily promoted over the years and now runs the chain’s most high-volume, complex location.

Assigning her to that store has proven to be a good decision, as she has continually driven strong sales growth and hit revenue milestones, including a 10-time increase in EBITDA. She accomplished those results through her forward-thinking innovation and attention to detail, including a disciplined approach to sales plans and stock management.

Diving into the data has enabled Rita to make informed decisions about product assortment, pricing strategy and other aspects of operations that improve efficiencies and the bottom line. For instance, a more effective inventory management system that meets demand while avoiding overstock has led to improved cash flow.

While she is always looking for the next innovation and keeps a close eye on analytics, Rita takes time to personally communicate with associates through team meetings, training and development, and an open-door policy. A believer in flexibility, she helps employees adapt to change and adjust priorities based on market trends or other external factors. Like other good managers, she understands the power of recognition and started a “Hero of the Week” award that honors outstanding performances. As a testament to her leadership, her store has the highest number of team members promoted within the chain and many of them are now among the most successful store managers.

As for the next program that may be taken to a broader level within the chain, this outstanding manager is working with her team to offer regular product tastings in the store. Such sampling isn’t common in the region – but may be soon, thanks to Rita.