Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Retail Memo: Food, Glorious Food: An Interview With Waitrose UK Supermarket Chain Chief Mark Price; the Now 'Not As Chubby Grocer'

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo has written often about the United Kingdom's upscale Waitrose supermarket chain which is owned by the John Lewis Partnership, which operates department stores under that name in the UK as well as Waitrose, and its Managing Director (CEO) Mark Price (pictured at top), who because of the now ever-decreasing girth around his waistline first called himself "The Chubby Grocer and "The Jolly Grocer," and now... "The Not So Chubby Grocer"

Yesterday, we wrote this piece about Price and Waitrose's new "Market Town" small-format (10,000 -to- 15,000 square feet) small town-positioned food and grocery store format, the second store of a possible 100 which opened last Thursday in the UK.

We've also written about Price and his "The Grocer's Blog," which he posts in daily on the Waitrose website.

In his blog, which gets about 40,000 hits a month, Price chronicles his daily efforts, often in minute details, to lose weight by a combination of better (and less) eating and exercise. Waitrose's staff nutritionist Moira Howie--who has a blog of her own on the website, along with a local hog farmer who sells local pork to the supermarket chain--often posts comments to Price's blog, praising him when he has eaten healthy or done a serious regime of exercise, and reminding him about his weight loss goal when he strays. The blog's readers also offer their comments on his weight-loss program and the other topics he posts about.

Waitrose chief Price also uses the blog to write about a variety of other things, from making friendly but often digging jabs at his competitors like Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy, Wal-Mart-owned Asda's CEO Andy Bond, whom he likens at times to his partial namesake James Bond, and fellow upscale food retailing CEO Sir Richard Rose of Marks & Spencer, who Price calls "The King of Pants," in honor of the fact that in addition to being an upscale food retailer, Mark's & Spencer is the number one clothing retailer in the UK.

Price also chronicles his Waitrose store visits, business travels, family vacations and other food-related and sometimes non food-related topics on his blog.

You can read a number of pieces we've written about Waitrose MD (managing director) and his blog here, along with related topics. There are links to Price's blog as well as the others in the stories at the link.

In today's London Times online, staff writer Andrew Billen has a well-written and comprehensive interview with Waitrose chief Mark Price. The interview took place at the Waitrose Estate, a 4,000 acre working farm complete with a Victorian mansion and other delights located in the English countryside. Leckford, as the estate is called, produces a variety of foods that are sold at Waitrose supermarkets, including fruits, vegeatables, meats and other local goods. Food fairs and other events also are held at the estate, which is owned by the employees of the John Lewis Partnership.

Today's interview with Mark Price in the London Times, which you can read by clicking here, offers a good look at the Waitrose chief as a person, leader of a premium food and grocery chain, and UK business leader. It also includes some of the MD's plans for Waitrose in the future, along with his plans to continue positioning the upscale food chain as the UK's leading upscale premium, specialty and natural foods retailer.

Meanwhile, as you can see in the photograph at the top of this piece, Mark Price still has a way to go before he can retire the name he gave himself: "The Chubby Grocer." Even though he is now referring to himself as "The Not So Chubby Grocer" (which is fair), we want to continue to motivate the seller of premium and decadents foods and groceries to continue losing weight and a bit more of his girth. Therefore, we will refer to him for now as "The Not as Chubby Grocer."

We've seen Price prior to starting his diet and exercise regime, and without a doubt he isn't as chubby as before. But he remains "jolly," a flavor for which you can get in the interview, which we hope continues long after he reaches his weight loss and waist measurement goals.

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