Metro exec explains shift in buying process

Retailer will also put special focus on customer insights and social media

A Metro executive on Thursday announced the company’s plans to centralize its procurement process.

Speaking at a Food and Consumer Products of Canada conference in Mississauga, Ont., Serge Boulanger, senior VP of national procurement and corporate brands, said Metro’s central procurement office in Montreal will soon have final say on which products get listed.

Once that office OKs a product, the suppliers then present it to the banners, who will be responsible for pricing and promotions.

This revamped process will save suppliers time, said Boulanger.

Metro also plans to put special focus on its partnership with Dunnhumby, the international loyalty marketing company it worked with to start the Metro & Moi loyalty program in Quebec a few years ago.

Following a “two year learning curve” with Dunnhumby, Metro has entered the second stage of a “process to build value for suppliers,” said Boulanger.

That entails mixing the customer insights gathered by Dunnhumby with information from Nielsen and other research companies to identify and follow trends more rapidly. Vendors will be a key part of this process, he said.

Meanwhile, Metro’s marketing strategy is also undergoing change.

Boulanger told the sold-out audience of 175 people that the company plans to invest more heavily in digital marketing.

“It’s an evolution,” he said. “We’re not going to withdraw from radio and TV, but we are going to look more at the tools of the younger generation.”

That includes targeted smartphone promotions, a stronger Facebook presence and an upgraded website. Personalization on each digital platform will also be important, Boulanger added.

Asked about the expansion of Target and Walmart stores, the VP said Metro has “not been hit so hard so far.”

But he stressed that the retailer has to improve its game.

For example, Adonis, an ethnic banner majority-owned by Metro that just launched in Ontario, has a dedicated nut bar, beautiful bakery and full service counters.

Boulanger described this as “the wow,” adding “this is the stuff we have to ramp up on the conventional side.”

For Metro's Super C and Food Basics discount banners, he said consumers continue to be focused on price. The challenge, he said, is determining “how can we differentiate ourselves from others?”

The answer: Metro plans to look closely at Food Basics this year, and Boulanger hinted that a new program for the banner will be launched in the coming weeks.

He did not offer details about the program.

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