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Interview with Melissa Pryszlak of Metro Inc

We talk to Melissa, the Director of Logistics and Engineering at Metro Inc, about strategy... 💬

  • Lucidity
  • 3 min read

Hi Melissa! Can you give us a bit of the background of Metro Inc for those who haven’t heard of it?

Metro Inc. is a Canadian food retailer operating in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The company is based in Montreal, Quebec and is the third largest grocer in Canada, after Loblaw Companies Limited and Sobeys.

Originally in 1947 by six independent grocery stores, the company has grown over the years in large part by acquisition and mergers. Today, Metro has 365 namesake locations in Ontario and Quebec. Super C is the discount supermarket division operated in Quebec with 72 stores, averaging 4,000 m2 (43,056 sq ft). These stores contribute to C$1 billion of Metro's annual sales.

In Ontario, Metro has 119 discount supermarkets under the Food Basics banner, which are very similar to the Super C stores. Large Metro stores in Quebec operate under the Metro Plus name. Metro also operates 142 small groceries under the Marché Richelieu banner. Metro now holds the second largest market share in the food distribution and retailing business in Quebec and Ontario with nearly $11 billion in sales and more than 65,000 employees.

Its stores operate under the banners Metro, Metro Plus, Super C, Food Basics, Marché Ami, Les 5 Saisons and Marché Adonis. Its pharmacies operate under the banners Brunet, The Pharmacy, Clini-Plus, and Drug Basics, and last year they acquired Jean Coutu.

What’s your role at Metro and a typical day?

My role is Director, Logistics and Engineering. This role has given me the responsibility of implementing process improvement and investing in innovating technologies.

A typical day includes solving business needs with a new process or system and the project management of these activities.

What’s the vision statement for Metro?

Metro's vision is to be the best performing food retailer in Canada. Our mission is to satisfy our customers every day and earn their long-term loyalty.

What is your approach to strategy planning?

Our approach to strategic planning is actually vary far-seeing as we plan and build for the next 15 years. This is a lot more than is typical in our industry, where distribution and logistics are planned for the next 5 years.

Looking back, have you made any key strategic mistakes?

The last major project that we built was planned for the next 5 years, and we grow faster than expected and so we are forced to make less optimal decisions today, this learning has taught us to think further in advance.

How often do you review your strategy at Metro?

We actually review this strategy often to verify whether our expectations were met and try to build on the learnings if there is a gap.

What have been some of your key strategic objectives and why?

Some of our key strategic objectives are:

  • Standardization
  • Continuing to build same store sales
  • Getting good return on our investments.

How do you engage your employees with your strategy?

We have a few ways that we engage our employees with our strategy, our four pillars help us all to stay aligned with same vision and mission, we update the teams on strategic decisions and investments (via an annual bbq in the summer or our store managers conference or an annual meeting where we share the previous year’s performance and our strategy for the next year.

What differences do you notice in the approach to strategy planning between some of the companies you’ve worked for?

The competitors that I have worked for (UPS, WALMART) are larger US based organizations and so my experience would have been that the US home office push down a strategy on us Canadian operations, usually a strategy that has already been implemented in the US.

Being involved in developing the strategy from the beginning has been a much better experience although it also means that the strategy hasn’t been fine tuned or tested prior to me seeing it.

Do you have particular frameworks that you use and find helpful?

My preferred frameworks would be PESTLE Analysis, SWOT, and Five Forces.

How do you think Metro will continue to succeed and grow?

I have seen that Metro has grown by focusing on our customers and getting a very good return on our investments, we are very conservative and then we grow through acquisition.

What strategy tip would you give SMEs?

A tip that I would give SMEs would be around forming strategic partnerships. These days, this seems to be how SMEs do well, they work with organizations of similar size and organizational culture.

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