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Walmart Canada SVP of strategy leaves for Asda

Preyash Thakrar joins the retail giant's British operation as chief strategy officer


After three years as Walmart Canada’s senior vice-president of strategy and real estate, Preyash Thakrar has moved across the Atlantic to join Asda, the British arm of the global retail giant, as chief strategy officer.

Krista Thomas, who just joined Walmart Canada earlier this year from Boston Consulting Group, has been named vice-president of strategy.

Thakrar (pictured) arrived in Canada in the summer of 2014 after more than a decade working with Walmart, first as a consultant at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and later (starting in 2009) at Asda. He spent time in Asia and the U.S. learning a great deal about the retail giant and market-specific challenges of retail in Japan, China and India, as well as global imperatives while working at Walmart’s head office in Bentonville.

Canadian Grocer spoke with Thakrar to get some parting thoughts about his experience working in Canada with a retailer that is aggressively carving out a bigger piece of the grocery business.

What makes Canada unique for all retailers including grocery? Without hesitation, Thakrar cited the physical size of the country and the dispersed population and the resulting logistical challenges. “That fundamental fact creates a unique market,” he said. “It has also been the primary reason why e-commerce has been relatively slow to take off.” Consumer habits are definitely changing, especially with younger shoppers and millennials, but smaller populations dispersed over larger distances make the economics of delivery more challenging, creating a drag on the e-commerce trend lines in Canada.

That said, e-commerce is definitely catching on “quite quickly” in markets such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal where Walmart just introduced online grocery pickup.

“Beyond that the one thing I think that is unique to Canada that you don’t see as much anywhere else is the ethnic population... The need to address an ethnically diverse population as far as food tastes go,” he said.

Aside from the challenges of Canadian grocery retail, Thakrar also noted a Canadian advantage. The food industry is becoming more and more competitive and consumer tastes and habits are changing so quickly that leaders and their employees need to work well together to address the new challenges that constantly arise, he said. Compared to other markets, Canadian businesses are uniquely positioned to do that. “I would say that Canadians are naturally collaborative,” he said. “Some people say Canadians are too nice and sometimes you see that. But, actually, it can be used as a strength because the way you get things done is through collaboration.”

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