Behind the Aisles: Interview with Jeff “JD” Brown, Procurement Manager at Wakefern
A frequent request from RDBA members is for more information on varying functions in the retail industry. To meet this retail dietitian need, we are launching this new column Retail Readiness, which will share insights straight from the source, those working in these retail functions. We kick off today with an interview with JD Brown, Procurement Manager at Wakefern/ShopRite.
JD, what are the key responsibilities of your function?
I manage the procurement staff for the produce and floral departments. Our corporate offices are in New Jersey, and we have field offices located in both Fresno, California, and Pompano, Florida. We have regional category managers who work across the globe, they are our “boots on the ground” and they make sure we can always source the best possible products for our customers.
What is a day-in-the-life like for you?
Every day is different! We pay close attention to our products, and are always looking into what is effecting our crop availability and quality. Weather conditions from California all the way to Chile effect every item in our portfolio. The team works hard each day to procure whatever product we need for our members and their stores.
What keeps you up at night?
The retail landscape is dramatically changing and we always need to be thinking ahead to keep our competitive advantage. This is where having retail dietitians provides a huge benefit for the consumer. Knowing that there is a dietitian in store to offer advice and expertise about produce – including what’s peak of season, recipe ideas and explaining about weather conditions that the market may be experiencing -- is a powerful differentiator and makes the ShopRite shopping experience special and unique.
What are the top skills needed to be successful in retail from your perspective?
Great customer service is critical. Our dietitian staff ties directly into this. Our consumers know they can get trusted information and recommendations, and then purchase the products they need all in one place. Staying ahead of trends and short availability windows is another vital skill. On a produce item such as a lemon plum, we have only about two weeks to get this product and ship it to all our stores for our customer's enjoyment. This requires a constant attention to the business.
What factors are most important to you in strategic partnerships?
Communication is the key to success in all partnerships. Whether it be speaking to a member about a supply issue, speaking to a grower about future crops, or planning out transportation schedules within the company, we all need to work together to succeed.
How do RDs support your business?
Our retail dietitians help us “take it to the next level” when it comes to keeping the produce department on the cutting edge by providing expertise, recommendations and real-time feedback from our consumers. The dietitians also provide feedback on new products that we are carrying or are considering carrying. If we have a great promotional launch plan with an item and we know its ingredients are approved by the dietitians, we know the item will be primed for a successful launch!
The dietitians also help us stay creative with our weekly promotions. Each week, we advertise a “Produce Pick of the Week.” This is an item that we feel our consumers may not have tried before, or it is an exciting item available for a short timeframe. We work with the dietitians to select the featured items, provide information and recipes containing these items to our customers, both in the printed circular and online.
ShopRite is the registered trademark of Wakefern Food Corp., a retailer-owned cooperative based in Keasbey, NJ, and the largest supermarket cooperative in the United States. With more than 260 ShopRite supermarkets located throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland, ShopRite serves more than six million customers each week. A long-time supporter of key community efforts, ShopRite is dedicated to fighting hunger in the communities it serves. Through its ShopRite Partners In Caring program, ShopRite has donated more than $39 million to 1,700 worthy charities and food banks since the program began in 1999. Shoprite’s Retail Dietitian program, which has includes over 120 retail dietitians who service over 130 ShopRite locations across the Northeast. For more information, please visit www.ShopRite.com.