Sobeys boss will simplify structure, cut cost, build brands

The new CEO of Sobeys, Michael Medline, was pretty tough on the firm Wednesday in a conference call to discuss earnings. They were “nowhere near acceptable” and the company’s structure was “Byzantine.” Communication with the consumer was “sorely missing.” Medline arrives from Canadian Tire to try to clean up the wreckage following Sobeys, and its parent Empire Cos., failure to integrate its acquisition of Safeway stores in western Canada. Although Sobeys thought it had a plan for integration when it bought Safeway, confusion reigned as it tried to move its distribution and sales system into place. Safeway customers fled. “There are a myriad of opportunities to improve our company and our results,” said Mr. Medline.


“It just takes some time, hard work and plain old-fashioned results. Getting these things right will improve our results and give us the underpinnings to innovate, to thrill our customers, and to beat the competition.” In the conference call Wednesday, as reported by Jon Singer of Supermarket News, Medline seemed anxious to break with the past and was feisty with analysts.  Medline said he has identified four areas around which he will devise a formal strategy: Simplifying the company’s structure; reducing costs; building brands; and improving in Western Canada specifically. Further details of the plan would be revealed in coming months, but he said these four areas came up over and over in his initial assessment of the company.