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5 Questions For Tom Charley

Tom Charley

The vice president of Pennsylvania’s Charley Family Shop N’ Save shares his thoughts on the current state of the industry and what the future holds for independent grocers. Charley recently testified before the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division on how anticompetitive tactics by dominant retailers in the grocery marketplace leads to unfair conditions for independent grocers.

  1. The pandemic, a widespread labor shortage, supply chain issues, high fuel prices and now conflict in eastern Europe have created a perfect storm that’s driving inflation. What can be done to ease the pain on grocery operators as well as their customers?

There are two things I believe that can help through this challenge. First, gain a fundamental understanding of what you can control and what you cannot. Stop putting anxiety and stress into the things you can’t control and focus on the things you can.  This will not remove all stress from the current situation, but at least you will be focusing on what we can control. Second, communicate to your customers and associates the situation as best you can. Be open and honest about the challenges you are facing and how they are going to impact the customer and associates. People want to know what’s going on even if it’s not a benefit to them. Don’t hide the ugly truths.

  1. What are your expectations for the coming months?

My only expectation is that I have no idea what’s going to happen in the market. The world is very unpredictable. We’re going to continue to focus on the daily challenges we are facing and what we can control.

  1. Despite ongoing concerns over new COVID variants, mask mandates have been lifted and the pandemic seems to be over in the minds of many. How will the experience of the pandemic continue to influence your operations?

There are many lessons we’ve taken away from the pandemic that we will apply to the organization going forward. Over the past two years, we made changes to the way we’ve done business for the last 40 years. Things we never thought we would touch are just gone, and it’s OK. We’re here, a stronger organization than when the pandemic began. We cut the number of days and hours that managers were required to be in store, relaxed our dress code, took a more aggressive stance on training and changed our philosophy on hiring management, just to name a few. These have all helped us become more flexible and a stronger organization. It comes down to being flexible to the situation. Don’t fight what’s in front of you head on if you can use it to mold your organization.

  1. What one thing must independent operators do to ensure growth and success?

Continue to learn from those around you. Conferences like the NGA Show are so integral to the continued success of the independent retailer. The show not only provides educational seminars and great exhibitors, but the networking on the side is huge for our success. I know personally I walked away with more than six ideas that my organization will be implementing to improve the overall experience for our associates and customers.

  1. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

I’m a very active person, but at the end of the day, my favorite thing to do is just play with my 3-year-old baby girl, Sophia. It’s an amazing thing to watch her grow, learn and love so freely.

Featured Photos

Featured Photo Lipari Food Show, March 22
Suburban Collection Showplace
Novi, Michigan
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