New Seasons CEO Wendy Collie Steps Down

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New Seasons CEO Wendy Collie Steps Down

02/06/2018

(Pictured above: Wendy Collie)

New Seasons Market CEO Wendy Collie has abruptly stepped down from her role, and the Northwestern grocer has announced a “strategic shift” in its business direction that includes pulling back on expansion in Northern California.

While no reason was given for Collie's departure, OregonLive.com reported that some workers accused Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons of retaliating against a unionization drive last fall “largely sparked” by a health care rollback, saying it hired a “union-busting” consulting firm. New Seasons denied the accusations.

Zoe Dye, a worker at New Seasons’ Hawthorne store in Portland, Ore., who belongs to New Seasons Workers United, the group formed by employees seeking to create a union, said that Collie’s tenure was “marred by poor decisions that hurt employees, drove down morale in stores and challenged the very ethos of the grocery chain.”

“In response to workers’ efforts to fight for pay equity, safe staffing levels, affordable health care and transparency from management, Wendy chose to hire the same union-busting firm as the Trump Hotels and fire workers beloved by customers simply for speaking up,” Dye said in a statement provided to Progressive Grocer. “We hope that this marks a shift in New Seasons corporate management to one that listens to employees and truly embodies the values New Seasons says it espouses.”

With Collie’s departure, the grocer plans to flatten its executive leadership structure: Chief People Officer Kristi McFarland and CFO Forrest Hoffmaster will serve as co-presidents, ensuring that a focus on people, community and business sustainability are embedded in every decision. Other executive leaders will include COO Mark Law, Chief Marketing Officer Dina Keenan, and Sarah Joannides, who leads social responsibility.

"Since its founding in 2000, New Seasons Market has been recognized for progressive employment practices and collaborative team approach," noted McFarland in response to a request for comment from PG. "I have worked under Wendy’s leadership for four years, and as CEO, Wendy Collie has been committed to supporting our customers, community and staff, emphasizing our 'speak-up' culture, which gives everyone at New Seasons a voice to share ideas and concerns. With her leadership, New Seasons Market has established comprehensive compensation and choice of benefits that significantly exceed industry standards. We've advocated for public policies like marriage equity, increased statewide minimum wage and fair-workweek regulations. And just this year, we became one of the first grocers in the nation to provide paid parental leave.​ New Seasons has been a pioneer in our industry and in the broader business community for progressive workplace policies, and under this new leadership structure, we'll continue to ensure that the focus on people, community and business sustainability are embedded in every decision.”

Following its change in leadership, the company will close its Sunnyvale, Calif., New Seasons store by the end of this month, with the hope of retaining as many staffers as possible via transfers to other New Seasons or New Leaf Community Markets stores. It will not open its planned New Seasons stores in San Francisco, Carmel and Emeryville, Calif., instead allocating investments originally intended for those locations to support core growth, enhancements and innovation.

The company plans to focus growth through its sister company, New Leaf Community Markets, with the new location in Aptos, Calif., opening in the fall. The hope is that focusing New Seasons on the Pacific Northwest and New Leaf on California’s Central Coast will ensure that the neighborhood grocery store thrives in the changing landscape.

“Today’s disruptive retail landscape has inspired many companies such as ours to re-evaluate their organizational structure and strategy,” Collie said in a statement. “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.”