business news in context, analysis with attitude

Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Supervalu-owned Jewel-Osco will eliminate 56 store director jobs from the chain. The cuts are scheduled to take place next month.

"Although the decision to reduce the number of store directors is difficult, the company believes the move will improve efficiency and help make Jewel-Osco more competitive in the communities it serves," Jewel-Osco said in a statement.

As the story notes, “Last year, Jewel-Osco eliminated more than 120 store director positions after Supervalu decided it only needed one per store. The chain's 182 stores in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa had been working with two in each location: a store director overseeing the Jewel grocery business and another in charge of the Osco drug division.”
KC's View:
Maybe I’m wrong about this, but it seems to me that for a store to be a functioning organism, it needs a strong leader who sets the tone for how business will be transacted, how customers will be treated, and how employees will treat each other and take ownership of the business.

Not a half-time leader with his or her eye on the budget line, hoping against hope that expenses can be kept in line so that he or she can keep her job and not be deemed irrelevant or unnecessary by the folks back at corporate.

I’m sure that the folks at Supervalu are doing what they think needs to be done to get expenses in line. But there are (at least) two problems with this logic.

One is that by reducing leadership at store level, it is probably less likely that the stores will perform either efficiently or effectively. (And what does it say about the company’s hiring and promotion policies if this is not the case?)

Two, it seems to me that a strong and effective store director ought to be viewed as an investment, not as a cost ... just as labor in general ought to be viewed as an investment, because it is the people on the front lines who make or break a chain. That clearly is not the thinking here. Upper management has decided that the people on the front lines are not the most important thing...and this likely will mean that, in the long term, the front lines will not hold.

And Supervalu will continue to have to answer questions about whether it has any strategy in mind that does not involve a scissor and an eyeshade.