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Market Watch’s 2022 Retailer Of The Year

October 21, 2022

In recent days, supermarket giant Kroger agreed to acquire its rival, Albertsons, for close to $25 billion, in a deal creating a company with more than 5,000 stores. The move came on the heels of Market Watch awarding Albertsons group vice president of alcohol Curtis Mann its 2022 Retailer of the Year honor at its annual Leaders Awards dinner at The Pierre in New York.

Mann has helped build Albertsons into a force in beverage alcohol by leveraging a commitment to knowledgeable service, exemplified by its beverage steward program; a recent partnership with the Napa Valley Wine Academy to further educate staff; and frequent in-store and virtual wine, spirits, and beer tastings. A master of wine himself, Mann believes the company’s focus on staff and training will further build trust and loyalty among Albertsons’ millions of customers. “It’s one thing for me to know a lot about wine, but the people who are really selling it—our division managers and beverage stewards—are dealing directly with the customers,” he says. “Our combination of passion and education is what makes us different.”

Operating nearly 2,300 retail stores in 34 states and Washington, D.C., Albertsons Cos. is comprised of food and drug stores doing business under the Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Randalls, and Haggen banners, among others. For fiscal 2021, the group reported sales revenue of $71.9 billion.

While beverage alcohol sales aren’t broken out, the category clearly is important, and seen as a key driver of future growth. Beer is sold in about 2,000 of the company’s stores, while wine is available in 1,800 locations, and spirits are sold in some 1,200 units. According to Mann, “beer and wine dollar sales are pretty even, and spirits is almost equivalent, even though they’re sold in far fewer stores.” At venues where all three beverage alcohol types are sold, beverage alcohol comprises about 10% of total store sales.

Prior to his retail career, Mann worked in the supplier tier, including at Trinchero Family Estates, and was also director of wine and spirits insights at Information Resources Inc. At Albertsons, Mann oversees “big picture strategy” for beverage alcohol, he explains, focusing on “what the future of alcohol looks like and what it will look like for our business.” He says that requires innovative thinking.

“As we see our customers premiumize, and as the nature of grocery stores evolve, we’re considering how we compete online, against bottle shops, and versus the on-premise,” Mann explains. As leader of Albertsons’ national beverage alcohol team, Mann is also involved in projects pertaining to the company’s private label and semi-exclusive label program. Product buying decisions are made locally by 12 different divisions around the country, with “influence from the national team,” he says. “We support the divisions in building out programs and helping them build the customer relationship. My focus is on developing that customer for life.” Market Watch has more on the burgeoning beverage alcohol program at Albertsons.

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