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CEO Out At New Seasons Market As Retailer Rethinks Calif. Strategy

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Last updated on February 8th, 2018 at 04:26 pm

New Seasons Market CEO Wendy Collie is departing the Portland, Oregon-based grocery chain as the company makes a “strategic shift in business direction.” Other changes include a flattening of the executive leadership structure, as well as a decision to close the Sunnyvale, California, New Seasons location and halt further expansion in the state.

In California, the company says it will focus growth through its sister company, New Leaf Community Markets.

The Sunnyvale location will close by the end of February, and the company says it is actively working to retain as many staff as possible by transferring them to other New Seasons or New Leaf stores. The company will offer support, including job search, transition pay and extended healthcare benefits. 

Additionally, New Seasons will not open locations in San Francisco, Carmel and Emeryville, California, as originally planned. According to the company, the previously allocated investments for these California locations will be redirected to “support core store growth, enhancements and innovation.” 

New Leaf Community Markets will continue to grow in California’s Central Coast, with the new Aptos location on track to open this fall. 

“These decisions reflect (our) belief that focusing New Seasons on the Pacific Northwest and New Leaf on California’s Central Coast will ensure the neighborhood grocery store thrives in the changing grocery landscape,” the company said in a press release.

“Closing the Sunnyvale store is a tough decision for us. This location proved to be a challenge for several reasons,” said Kristi McFarland, chief people officer. “We are immensely proud of the staff who worked at the Sunnyvale store, and we’ll ensure they have support through this transition.” 

Collie described the shift in strategy as refocusing on the company’s roots while enhancing a unique offering in a rapidly changing grocery industry.

“Today’s disruptive retail landscape has inspired many companies such as ours to reevaluate their organizational structure and strategy,” she said. “The board and I have made the decision to redirect resources to support our core business, fund improvements for existing stores and invest in developing programs and services that will best meet the changing needs of our customers and communities. In support of this strategic shift, we will be implementing a flatter, more team-based executive leadership structure, led by co-presidents.”

McFarland and Forrest Hoffmaster, CFO, will assume the positions of co-presidents. The executive leadership team also includes COO Mark Law, Chief Marketing Officer Dina Keenan, and Sarah Joannides, who leads social responsibility.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to chart this new course, and to deepen to what has always made us strong: our communities, our values and, most of all, our people,” said Hoffmaster.

“It is never easy to leave a company you love,” Collie said. “I truly love the amazing people who are the very heart and soul of our company. I feel very confident that the company is in good hands with the team that I have built and with Kristi and Forrest at the helm, who are both dedicated to our mission and have the leadership skills and expertise to ensure New Seasons remains a thriving company.”

Collie joined New Seasons in 2012. She led the effort to become the first grocer in the world to earn B Corp certification, an international standard for social and environmental responsibility. In the workplace, she increased wages, expanded benefits and introduced paid parental leave. Under her leadership the company grew from 12 stores within the Portland Metro area to 25 stores and two brands across three states with more than 4,000 employees.

Stan Amy, a board member and co-founder of New Seasons, credits Collie with values-based leadership that supported growth and social impact.

“Wendy Collie advanced the mission of New Seasons Market as a champion of a healthy regional food economy, a progressive employer and a leading community advocate. New Seasons and the communities it serves are all stronger due to her vision,” he said.

Stephen Babson, managing director of Endeavour Capital, majority owner of New Seasons added, “We are confident in this focused neighborhood store strategy and the increased investment in core markets that this represents. With this new strategy and leadership structure, we will be well positioned to go deeper and do better in our neighborhoods and communities.”

New Seasons has 20 neighborhood stores in Washington, Oregon and California, as well as four New Leaf Community Market locations in Northern California.

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