By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Whether you work as a store dietitian or serve in a corporate or regional role, it’s important to understand the priorities of a store director so you can be an effective partner with advancing retail initiatives. The following interview with Mary Kruck, Store Director at Coborn’s in Isanti, Minnesota provides some valuable insights.
What are the key responsibilities of your function?
I direct all operations of a 45,000-sq. ft. new concept, next generation grocery store which employs 140 people.
What do retail RDs need to understand about your role to be an effective partner?
That my energy and focus must be divided as equally as possible between all the departments and sometimes other departments may have a greater need, making me less available. It's important for the RD to be a fabulous communicator due to my potential lack of availability as the needs of the store and staff are ever changing.
What is a day-in-the-life like for you?
I affectionately refer to it as constructive chaos. It requires an inane ability to multi-task and “change lanes” at the drop of a hat.
What keeps you up at night?
Meeting budgets, staffing, the desire to effectively change/maintain a positive culture amid the differing backgrounds, perspectives and personalities of 140 people. And my kids...
What are the top three skills needed to be successful in retail from your perspective?
Self-awareness, patience and a great ability to multi-task.
What factors are most important to you in strategic partnerships? Are they different between internal and external partnerships?
Clear, consistent communication. This is an essential factor in both internal and external partnerships. Brainstorming as partners is important to remain exciting and relevant, and relying on other's strengths and passions to be successful.
What factors do you consider when determining if a product on the shelf is doing well? Should get more facings? Should be pulled from the assortment?
We have the ability to run movement reports. The most obvious would be the fact that it's always out but these reports tell us specifically how well (or not so well) a product sells. At which time, we must up the quantity or come up with a better seller.
How do you differentiate between a fad and a trend when deciding on new products to carry or products to feature more prominently?
The grocery business is ever evolving. I feel it is our responsibility to respond to these requests, whether they're fads or trends, to remain relevant. A fad will decline in sales much more quickly where as a trend will remain relevant longer. Because our store is a next generation/new concept supermarket, keeping up with this is that much more crucial.
What financials do you look at and use most frequently in your role?
Sales, labor, gross profit, productivity, profit and loss statements, EBITDAR statements, CTO (Contribution to Overhead), etc.
What is your educational and work background?
I started with the company when I was 20 years old and in college as an English Major/Theatre Minor. I never left the company, didn't finish college and have now worked for Coborn's for nearly 22 years. I began as a PT Convenience Store Clerk, became a PT Video Department Manager, Bookkeeper, FT Video Department Manager, FT Video/Convenience Manager, Assistant Store Manager and now my current role. Coborn’s has provided me with endless career growth and development opportunities including the Store Manager Training and Development program, Super Market Director's Institute through SuperValu, and I am currently enrolled in Alexandria Tech College's 2-year Retail Management Program.