Steve Burd has made for good copy since joining Safeway as its president in 1992. He has had his share of admirers and critics over the years and his legacy will be felt long after he steps down as the company's chairman and CEO in May.
On the plus side, Mr. Burd has been credited with bringing fiscal discipline to the chain. He has overseen a major store expansion during his tenure that included Safeway as well as the acquisition of market leading chains such as Dominick's in Chicago and Randalls in Houston.
Mr. Burd also expanded the company's profit making ability outside of stores with the creation of the Blackhawk Network gift card business and the sale of private label lines to other retailers through its Lucerne Foods division.
While not always seen as the most employee friendly executive at retail, Mr. Burd has rightfully received recognition for an employee healthcare plan that provides access to workers while keeping costs under control. According to the grocer, Safeway averaged two percent annual growth in healthcare costs between 2005 and 2011 while the national average for the U.S. was eight percent.
Safeway has recently made strides with the introduction of its new "just for U" loyalty marketing program that personalizes prices and offers to individual shoppers.
Critics of Mr. Burd have argued over the years that Safeway has homogenized chains it has acquired, turning them from exciting to dull shopping environments. In fact, it wasn't until the development of the "lifestyle" format back in 2004 that industry watchers began to give Safeway credit for its merchandising chops.
In announcing his plans to step down, Mr. Burd said in a statement: "I feel this is the right time to move forward with a transition plan. The company is gaining market share with each passing quarter. We have developed the most sophisticated digital marketing platform in retail, we are implementing the most comprehensive and personalized fuel loyalty program, and we will be rolling out a wellness initiative that has the potential to transform the company."
"While I still have the high level of energy and enthusiasm I brought to the company 20 years ago," Mr. Burd added, "I need more personal time and, given my extensive work in health care, I want to pursue that interest further."
Which of the following do you think is the most significant contribution Steve Burd made to Safeway during his 20+ years with the company?