Julie Libby oversees a wide range of activities as director of produce category management, merchandising and pricing for Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets.
“My major responsibilities include sales development, supplier relations, net contribution management, procurement and replenishment, as well as all store layouts and our program and service offerings,” Libby said.
“I am lucky to work with an incredibly talented group of people who make this much easier than it sounds, and my favorite part of any day is connecting with my team.”
Peter Forester, Libby’s supervisor, describes her as relentless, detail-oriented and a person of the highest integrity.
In 2016 she received the John J. Russell Award, named after a former company officer known as a great leader and developer of people.
“There wasn’t a soul in the organization who was surprised,” Forester said. “Everyone was like, ‘That’s Julie to a T.’”
Libby planned Hannaford’s newest concept store in Bedford, N.H.
The process involved developing and testing ideas with pilot programs and then refining them before rolling them out again for more testing.
Libby challenged her group to take risks in pursuit of the desired improvements for customer experience, Forester said.
“One of my favorite things in our Bedford produce department is the large convenience kiosk we have on the sales floor,” Libby said. “We offer in-store produced cut fruits, vegetables and platters, along with in-store produced juices and infused water.”
Libby is also driving an initiative called Harvest to Home, which focuses on improving the freshness of produce and includes Hannaford and Food Lion, another banner of parent company Ahold Delhaize.
“Some of the early indicators show us that we can make great strides by improving the knowledge and education of our associates all along the supply chain with regards to the impact they personally have in ensuring our customers have the best experience with our produce,” Libby said. “This includes people all along the product’s path, from the associate unloading the truck, to the quality inspector, the associate wrapping the pallets for distribution, the receiver at the store and the cashier at check-out.
“When each individual associate understands the key role they play in reaching our ultimate end goal, they are more empowered and more likely to take pride in their work,” Libby said.
Forester said Libby has also worked on making quality specifications more straightforward for suppliers.
In addition to her work on the concept store and the Harvest to Home initiative, Libby has been expanding the company’s local offerings.
“I have had the pleasure of being involved in our local efforts throughout my career and have seen this program grow rapidly,” Libby said. “We continue to see an increase in the number of local vendor partners and local products that we support each year, as well as double-digit growth in consumer purchases."
Libby spent the first years of her retail supermarket career on the supply chain side of the business and moved into merchandising after completing a leadership training program. When she landed a job as category manager for fruit and floral, she was hooked.
“I jumped in with both feet,” Libby said, “and learned very quickly that once produce gets into your blood it never leaves.”