The National Grocers Association Foundation has hired Brielle Underwood as its project director for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer (SNAP EBT) Modernization Technical Assistance Center (SEMTAC), effective May 1.
Underwood comes to the foundation from The Food Trust, in Philadelphia, where she was a project manager overseeing the organization’s farmers’ market programs and helping with grant reporting and evaluation. A graduate of Berkeley College, in Newark, N.J., with a bachelor of science degree in business administration, Underwood is based in New Jersey.
“We look forward to working with Brielle as she leads the efforts to further SEMTAC’s objective to assist more grocers in getting on board with online SNAP,” said NGA Foundation Director Chelsea Matzen. “She comes to the project with extensive experience navigating federal guidelines and working with advisory groups. She’s also spent the past year earning a software testing and quality assurance certificate, which will go a long way toward building out our TA tracker and assisting retailers with their SNAP online vendor options.”
SEMTAC will instruct retailers on the federal requirements for SNAP EBT modernization, including online purchasing and mobile payment programs.
The foundation received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to establish a technical assistance center that will lead grocers through the process of implementing online SNAP grocery purchasing. SEMTAC will pave the way for a greater number of smaller grocery operators to offer SNAP online purchasing, making them more competitive and better able to provide service to food-insecure Americans.
The NGA Foundation is the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of the Washington, D.C.-based National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade organization representing the independent sector of the food distribution industry.
Walmart Inc. has promoted Latriece Watkins to the role of chief merchandising officer, effective immediately, according to an internal memo from John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., as reported by various media outlets.
Watkins succeeds Charles Redfield, who is leaving after more than three decades with the retailer.
A native of McGehee, Ark., Watkins has spent the past 24 years in various merchandising roles, as well as in leadership positions in human resources and operations, for Walmart and Sam’s Club. Her most recent position was EVP of consumables for Walmart U.S. In his memo, Furner noted that she helped grow sales revenue via supplier partnerships and licensed innovation.
“We have a rich history of strong leaders who embrace this constant change, set bold visions for our teams and best represent the humanity that is Walmart,” he wrote. “I have long admired those qualities in Latriece Watkins. Her enthusiasm, talent and deep experience helped establish the omni-merchandising strategy we have today, and her focus on customers and members will only strengthen our position in the future.”
Watkins joined Walmart as an intern in the company’s real estate division while pursuing a law degree at the University of Arkansas, which she earned in 1999. Watkins also has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Spelman College.
Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
The community-owned Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative in Milwaukee has appointed Ray Simpkins as its new general manager. He succeeds the exiting Pam Mehnert, who is retiring after a 42-year career with the co-op.
Simpkins will leverage two decades of experience in his GM duties. He has served in leadership roles at several national retail chains, most recently as a district manager for Dollar General in Columbus, Ohio. His background also includes positions as a club manager for Sam’s Club, store director for Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and a store manager for The Home Depot. He earned an MBA from Strayer University and a bachelor’s degree from Wright State University.
“After a nationwide search, we are thrilled to have found a general manager who brings such a rich background and extensive experience in grocery retail,” said Ashley Fisher, president of Outpost Natural Foods’ board of directors. “Ray’s an energetic team leader with a passion for customer service. We’re excited to watch him excel at Outpost.”
Simpkins said he will hit the ground running when he joins the co-op on May 22. “I can’t wait to move to Milwaukee and meet Outpost employees, owners, shoppers and community partners,” he remarked. “Together, we’ll continue to create healthy, diverse, and sustainable communities by offering the area’s largest selection of regionally and locally sourced organic products, all within an engaging consumer experience.”
With 23,000 owners, Outpost has four co-op locations, including one in the city of Milwaukee and others in the nearby suburbs of Mequon, Wauwatosa and Bay View. The retailer was founded in 1970 and currently employs nearly 360 people. Customers do not have to be an owner/member to shop at Outpost stores.
Publix Pharmacy Earns Specialty Pharmacy Patient Choice Award
Publix Pharmacy has once more received the Retail Specialty Pharmacy Patient Choice Award, bestowed by Livingston, N.J.-based Zitter Insights, a division of Managed Markets Insights & Technology (MMIT). This is the third time that Publix Pharmacy has won the award.
“It’s an honor to once again be recognized by our customers and Zitter Insights,” said Publix VP of Pharmacy Dain Rusk. “This award is a testimony to our team’s incredible dedication to providing premier service to our specialty pharmacy customers.”
Publix Pharmacy offers both a dual-accredited specialty pharmacy and a traditional retail pharmacy. The specialty pharmacy dispenses and supports more complex medications, including those used to treat cancer and rare diseases, not usually available at standard pharmacies.
The Specialty Pharmacy Patient Choice Award recognizes specialty pharmacies’ commitment to patients. It goes to one winner and three finalists in four categories: Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) & Payer Specialty Pharmacy, Hospital and Health System Specialty Pharmacy, Independent Specialty Pharmacy, and Retail Specialty Pharmacy. Winners and finalists are chosen based on scores racked up during quarterly surveys of 10,000-plus specialty pharmacy customers. To be eligible for this award, specialty pharmacies must meet criteria set by a committee comprising representatives from pharmaceutical manufacturers, health plans, PBMs, trade organizations, consultants and equity research firms.
Employee-owned and -operated Publix has close to 1,300 supermarkets in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix is No. 12 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.
Amazon Officially Launches Fulfillment Center in Connecticut
Amazon, along with Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, state and local elected officials, and community partners, celebrated the official opening of its new state-of-the-art fulfillment center in Windsor, Conn., on May 2.
According to local reports, the online retail giant said that the five-story, 3.8 million-square-foot fulfillment center is its largest such facility in New England.
More than 2,000 local Amazon employees will operate and work with the newest innovative robotics technology, delivering such items as books, electronics, small household goods and toys to customers in the area. Jobs are still available on a rolling basis. Interested candidates can sign up for alerts by visiting amazon.jobs.
This new facility expands Amazon’s operations and logistics network in Connecticut. Since 2010, Amazon has created more than 15,000 jobs and invested $6 billion-plus in the state including infrastructure and employee compensation. These investments have contributed an additional $5.5 billion to the Connecticut economy and have helped create an additional 19,000 jobs — in addition to the employees whom the company directly employs — including jobs in construction, logistics, health care and professional services.
White-label e-commerce platform eGrowcery is helping retailers own their digital future with its latest option. BOLT (Build, Operate, Lease, Transfer) offers retailers the opportunity to purchase their entire e-commerce ecosystem in the future as they operate and grow their technology in the short term.
“We have heard from numerous retailers that they are making significant investments in their e-commerce technology over the next several years,” noted Patrick Hughes, CEO of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based eGrowcery. “While many retailers still prefer traditional SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] pricing models, others are interested in building or buying their own platform. We have listened to the market and created a faster path for those retailers seeking to save time and money buying versus building their technology in-house.”
“We work with retailers of all sizes and varying strategies,” said Mark Doiron, an industry consultant at Boston-based Supply Chain Ventures and onetime chief merchant with several major supermarket operators. “There is clear interest with many retailers to explore the possibility of owning their own e-commerce platform. Not all will be able to leverage this opportunity, but there is a growing trend of retailers wanting to fully control this growing part of the business.”
In the eGrowery BOLT model, a retailer enters into a classic SaaS agreement that enables personalization and scalability for a retailer for some mutually-agreed-to period. At the end of this mutually defined period, the retailer has the option of migrating its e-commerce platform over to its own servers, from which it can then control product development and other initiatives going forward.