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

Anthony Hucker

By Justine Griffin

 

Tampa Bay Times

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 will 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 on Thursday. “This was also part of his succession plan.”

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

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 toopen 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 Más, 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 private label brands and a focus on prepared meals during a tour of the renovated Ruskin store Thursday.

Lance Davidson 9 days ago
I hope they do pull it together but the store comes off as being run by people with low insight. For example, Publix subs have become legendary. They have a cult following, people even joke they're the best part about living in Florida. OK, so congrats to Publix, they hit a home run with their subs... and that makes them a lot of money on other things from people who go into the store to buy subs. A sub at Winn Dixie is quite literally the same thing served in a grade school cafeteria. Someone made an executive decision that a Winn Dixie sub would be basically the same thing as put together by 8th Grade lunch ladies. For a time, Winn Dixie had a fantastic $3.99/lb meat and cheese antipasto. They stopped carrying it all together, yet that alone brought me into the store and pretty much everyone in my family also bought it. It's gone now, in spite of being out of stock half the time I went to buy it... They're not remotely competitive with Aldi in terms of cost/quality ratio and their specials and sale prices are sub-mediocre at best, in a world where competitors aren't afraid to offer loss-leaders. The Beach store finally scrapped their utterly dysfunctional 'self checkout' that never worked right, but only after years and years and years of riding that lame pony before taking it out behind the barn. I hope they pull it together, I really do, but they're a weak alternative to their competitors in Publix, Aldi and Wal Mart and the brand strikes be as being Food Lion tier. They will need to make an existential change to remain competitive beyond 'redecorating'.. 
 

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