As a “military brat,” Rick Reed – The Save Mart Companies’ VP of produce and floral – has lived all over the world. His family was living in Arizona when he got his start in the grocery industry at age 16.
Reed, who credited his father with instilling a strong work ethic in him, worked his way up rather quickly. He went from bagging groceries to running the operations for produce in about 16 years.
While working for a national retailer and living in Arizona, his boss – the division president – was sent to corporate as president of perishables. She asked him to come out on a project.
“Long story short, I’m at the corporate office, director of strategic planning and development, which was a really awesome job because you didn’t have any concerns about margin. It’s like how do we improve our reputation? That was really a cornerstone and what I think is a strength of mine.”
Reed said he also ran Tom Thumb and Randalls in Texas and Bonds in Seattle and Portland. A division president from Denver moved to the East Coast and tapped Reed to go as part of a team that was rebranding a company there. Coming back to the West as VP of produce and floral for The Save Mart Companies is “very intuitive to me.” His experience with national retailers has been beneficial.
“That really taught me how to go into a market and analyze what the competition is, analyze where my assortment is, where opportunities are and doing that repetitively,” he said.
Having more than 50 percent of the world’s produce come from California is one of the aspects to love about his job.
“We have the freshest produce of anywhere in the country,” he said. “Because if you think about it, to go back to New York, it’s six days on the road. I get it the next day.”
As far as The Save Mart Companies being named The Shelby Report of the West’s 2022 Retailer of the Year, Reed said it is an honor, “particularly when we operate in an area that has so much competition.”
“The company is such an amazing story. It’s been around for 70 years. It’s a locally-grown company. And we are proud of those connections and those roots, to not only all of the farmers and ranchers, but the producers of milk, cheese, wine, etc.”
When he first arrived at the company, Reed recalled, there had been some changes and “we were at a point where we needed to reinvent ourselves.”
The remodeling and new vision for all three banners is a result of a team effort to do something completely different, he said, noting the company’s innovation labs.
“It’s really a people-first company. That starts with ownership…and I’m thrilled to be a part of it,” Reed said. “I think it is really, really appropriate and fitting that this company gets that [Retailer of the Year award] because of the…struggles and the hard work and the reinvention and to see all of that really manifest into the perfect storm that we lowered our prices – tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis.”
The company had reinvested in its formats, as seen in the flagship stores, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At first, customers were just trying to find supplies, which drew traffic.
“That was a great way for them to see the store has been updated and there’s some better prices here, better assortment,” said Reed, adding that as a result, The Save Mart Companies’ market share increased.
“This is a really nice way to kind of look back on the last four years and say, ‘We deserve that.’ We do deserve it.”
For more information, visit thesavemartcompanies.com.
To read the full Retailer of the Year section on The Save Mart Companies by The Shelby Report, click here.
To read more produce news from The Shelby Report, click here.