Giant Tiger CEO quits amid bid to be go-to for inflation-weary shoppers


The private retailer has expanded its fresh grocery offering this year as consumers seek discounts and low prices

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The Managing Director of Giant Tiger Stores Ltd. left the company this week as it positioned the discount retailer as a go-to store for price-sensitive shoppers during the worst inflation crisis since the early 1980s.

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Board member Gino DiGioacchino has been named interim CEO.

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« We would like to take this time to thank Mr. Wood for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavours, » communications manager Alison Scarlett said in an email.

Wood became chief executive of the Ottawa-based company in September 2020, after spending 17 years previously in various internal roles, according to his LinkedIn profile. He helped navigate the company through pandemic-era woes, including supply chain bottlenecks and commercial input price increases.

Wood’s departure appeared abrupt to outsiders. A week earlier, in what turned out to be his last interview as CEO, he gave a tour of one of the company’s stores in Brampton, Ontario, a suburb just outside of Toronto.

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If Wood knew he would be leaving the company soon, he didn’t say so as he walked the aisles, pointing out expanded clothing collections, Christmas items and $10 skeins of yarn that usually sell for $12. and more at other retailers.

With almost every article he passed, Wood reiterated his belief that Giant Tiger – which operates more than 260 stores between Alberta and Prince Edward Island, most in Ontario and Quebec – is perfectly placed to help buyers resist skyrocketing inflation because of its philosophy. to keep costs as low as possible.

« It’s in our DNA, » Wood said. « We keep our cost base low and if we keep our costs low, we don’t face pressure to drive up prices. »

Scarlett said the company’s strategy remains unchanged.

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The impact of inflation

High inflation seems to be having an impact on Canadians’ wallets. Food bank visits hit record highs in March this year due to rising costs for almost everything, according to a recent report. The cost of food has risen dramatically, with Canadians paying up to 11% more for groceries in September than a year earlier, according to Statistics Canada’s latest inflation report. That’s higher than the headline inflation rate of 6.9% and the fastest acceleration since August 1981.

In response to shoppers seeking discounts and low prices, Giant Tiger has increased its fresh groceries this year. But rising fuel and commodity prices, bad weather and the war in Ukraine have all driven up prices at checkout, making it difficult to live up to Giant Tiger’s « Savings for Smiles » slogan.

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“I think inflation is not something anyone can avoid, but what we’ve always tried to do is get the lowest possible price in the market,” Wood said. about the 62-year-old company. « That positioning, that drive, that direction that we have really hasn’t changed at all. In fact, we’re paying even more attention to it than in the past.

Giant Tiger began as a single store in Ottawa’s ByWard Market in 1961. Founder Gordon Reid opened the discount retailer in part because of fond memories of his mother’s work at Woolworths, an Australian discount supermarket Woolworths Group Ltd., he told the Canadian Business Journal. in 2011.

Today, the store sells a variety of merchandise, including home decor and small furniture, clothing, toys, pet products and food, and promises to sell at the lowest price on the market. market. For example, a four-cup Pyrex measuring cup sells for $7.97 on the Giant Tiger website, while the same cup sells for $16 online at Walmart Canada.

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Keep costs low

Wood said one of the main reasons Giant Tiger is able to keep costs low is its fleet of private trucks, which handle product deliveries for all of its stores across the country.

Its trucking strategy sets it apart from many other retailers forced to pay for-profit fees to third-party transportation companies to get goods to physical stores. These fees, which eat into operating expenses in the grocery industry, for example, are either absorbed or passed on to consumers.

« We have our own trucking group, Tiger Trucking, that delivers product to our stores every day across the country and that fleet has been a key factor in helping us keep costs down, » Wood said of the 150 trucks and 700 containers. fleet.

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Giant Tiger has further refined its savings strategy during the pandemic. The supply chain disruptions have served as an exercise in making operations more « agile » and have proven beneficial in the current high inflation environment, Wood said. One such change allowed purchasing managers to freely choose different brands for certain items if they were unavailable, a practice that continues today.

Additionally, the company avoids storing inventory and instead “tightly” manages the amount of goods it keeps on hand. It also leaves room for purchasing managers to find deals on merchandise on a weekly or even daily basis, Wood said.

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This policy also keeps the warehouses small so he doesn’t have to pay for expensive big-box store space. Giant Tiger further reduces costs by maintaining a spare parts store design, such as choosing simple fixtures, so that these savings can be passed on to customers.

Staying frugal is key to navigating a challenging macroeconomic environment with the potential to stunt growth, Wood said. To that end, Giant Tiger is reducing its physical flyers this year and reducing its print advertising in favor of digital alternatives. The retailer also encourages employees at all levels of the company to strive to keep list prices low. “We work together to serve the customer. If we keep that in mind, then we can…find the best way to do what we need to do at the lowest possible cost,” Wood said.

Although Wood is no longer CEO, Scarlett said the company will stick to this low-cost vision. “Giant Tiger’s goal remains to provide Canadians with the products and groceries they need at the lowest possible price every day. We are proud to serve the 264 communities we inhabit and look forward to expanding further in the future,” she said.

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