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Giant Co. President Dives Into the State of Food Retail

John Ruane took to the stage at Progressive Grocer’s Grocery Impact event
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
Giant CEO at Grocery Impact
Giant CEO John Ruane joined Progressive Grocer Editor-in-Chief Gina Acosta at the publication’s Grocery Impact event in Orlando.

John Ruane, who officially took over as president of The Giant Co. in July, has held 28 jobs in the grocery industry, each of which, he says, has been his favorite. Ruane joined Progressive Grocer Editor-in-Chief Gina Acosta at the publication’s Grocery Impact event last week to discuss his first few months in the grocer’s top position, the current state of food retail, where he finds inspiration and much more.

“The more you do, the better off you are. The more you learn and experience,” Ruane explained of those dozens of jobs he’s held, from store manager to, most recently, interim president. Upon being made permanent president of Giant Co. this summer, Ruane set about the task of putting the right team together. 

“I think the right team is really based upon letting people be great at what they love,” he said. “Not everybody's great at everything, but certain people are great at marketing, advertising, selling – certain people are great at procurement, certain people are great at margin management, things like that. But I've found that if you get the right people in the right seats, you can really be successful.”

Giant Co. recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and Ruane believes successful organizations with that sort of longevity are the ones that focus on their legacy and heritage, as well as what they were originally intended to be.

“You really have to keep focused and push your own organizations to make sure you're focused on what's important,” he said. “It's a customer business, it's a team member business, it's a people business. You have to really stay focused on those things to be successful, I think.”

While Giant Co. has remained successful over the past century, Ruane also acknowledges the tough position food retailers currently find themselves in following multiple years of inflation, a global pandemic and myriad supply chain woes. As a result, Giant Co. is making it a point to find additional ways to help its customers who are struggling and attempting to stretch their dollars further.  

One point of differentiation for the Giant Co. has been its sustainability initiatives, which Ruane says are part of the company’s DNA. He explained that the grocer has established very tough goals for itself around scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, and recently upgraded its refrigeration systems in its stores. Giant Co. is also working with its suppliers to help eliminate food waste, and has itself been working toward using less plastic within its operations.

[Read more: "10 Most Sustainable Grocers"]

When it comes to staying competitive in today’s market, Ruane says he gets a lot of inspiration from Giant Co.’s competitors.

“I love to visit our stores, but I love to visit our competitors just as much. I really respect a lot of what they do, both the local competitors as well as national competitors,” he said. “I get a lot of inspiration from them and I get ideas from them. We steal with pride, as we say.”

As for his future at Giant Co., Ruane hopes to continue making his team better, make the experience better for customers and continue growing the business.

“What I would love to do is to leave the Giant Co. in a very sustainable way. So are we doing the right things? Are we delivering that value? Are we treating our team members properly so that they want to work here?” he mused. “They want to work at the company where our customers enjoy shopping, and where we meet our customers wherever and however they want us to meet them. And I want to be able to feel good about that.” 

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