2021 Star Women in Grocery winner Marie-France Gibson (Q&A)
Canadian Grocer staff
Corporate Brands Metro
How did you get into the grocery business?
My career in the grocery business started in marketing when I had to take a successful U.S. warehouse club concept and adapt it for the Canadian market. I developed the strategy for the national customer loyalty membership program; created branding that inspired both French and English-speaking Canadians; and a customer recruitment plan to ensure a sufficient membership base to generate $1M weekly sales per store. My success with this ambitious mandate made me realize I loved the challenge of retail.
What would you say is your best quality?
One of my strongest assets is my creativity. This skill is essential for product and brand development, as it is for problem solving and building financial models for new projects. It is complemented by my strong work ethic and resiliency when presenting new opportunities or projects to build a stronger retail offering to enhance our customer experience and build customer loyalty.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
Having been in leadership positions for the last 30 years, my biggest challenge is maintaining a work/life balance. Making sure I spend time taking care of my family, while at the same time being on top of my projects and deadlines and being a good leader for my teams. I am happy to say I set a good example for my sons, at least that is what they tell me; I have the love and support of my partner; and the respect and support from my teams.
What are some of your biggest career highlights/greatest achievements?
I have had a challenging, yet very rewarding career in retail ranging from finance to brand development to category management and marketing. Some of my proudest achievements from my career at Metro include: 1) The PL brand renovation after the A&P Canada acquisition to deliver a portfolio of products that were competitive and had a strong design presence on shelf. Today, our efforts have focused on affordable health products, improving local provenance, and promoting eco-responsible practices, such as reducing packaging; 2) The merger of Jean Coutu Group with Metro Inc., leading the integration of private brands across food, HABA, personal care and baby in the grocery and pharmacy banners; consolidating and repositioning brands; and launching Personnelle Baby, a new baby line ranging from organic food to diaper to personal care items; and 3) Operationally, working through the service level and distribution rate issues brought on by the pandemic provided its own set of challenges to ensure product availability and safety. With the work of my team and our supplier partners, we were able to service our customers with new and existing products.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would describe my leadership style as collaborative or synergistic. I rely on the expertise of my experienced and diverse team and that of our supplier partners to achieve our mutual corporate objectives.
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy all the new and exciting challenges the retail business has to offer. From the constant product innovations, evolution of trends, and consumer needs and wants, to the leadership required to invest in new creative vendors to make consumers’ lives easier and more exciting—the inspirations are endless.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am very honoured to have been recognized for my contributions to the grocery industry. There are so many deserving women in the industry today, so I am truly humbled. I am also grateful to have been able to drive change within our business and grow our private-label portfolio to the success program it is today.
Click here for the full list of 2021 Star Women in Grocery award winners.