President, Acme Markets
Judy Spires is president of Acme Markets, a division of SuperValu, and has more than 30 years experience in the supermarket industry.
This month she received NEW’s Outstanding Champion Award for 2007 “in recognition of the efforts put forth on NEW’s behalf this past year.” Spires was commended for her work on the Network’s expansion in Greater Philadelphia, “a critical piece in the NEW’s growth in 2006. Her efforts were essential to getting this group launched,” according to NEW Regional Committee Chair Bobbie O’Hare, vice president of business development for Johnson O’Hare Companies.
Before being named to the top post at Acme Markets last year, Spires held a number of top jobs at American Stores and Albertsons, including president of the Albertsons Dallas/Fort Worth Division and president of the Rocky Mountain Division. At Acme, Spires has held the post of vice president of sales and advertising, vice president of administration, vice president of human resources, vice president of operations, vice president of integration and senior vice president of marketing and merchandising.
Spires is active in many organizations, including NEW, and serves on the boards of directors of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and Variety, the Children’s Charity. She is a member of LaSalle University’s Board of Trustees and the Forum of Executive Women. Spires is also a national vice president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The New Jersey native holds a Bachelor’s degree in education and a Master’s of Business Administration from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. She lives in center city Philadelphia with her husband, Bob. The couple’s son, Robert, attends Santa Clara University in California.
Acme Markets, Inc. is a Northeast retailer operating both combination stores and supermarkets for a total of 129 locations in the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. SuperValu is one of the largest companies in the United States grocery channel with annual sales approaching $40 billion. SuperValu has approximately 2,500 retail grocery locations provides distribution and related logistics support services to more than 5,000 grocery endpoints across the country, and has more than 200,000 associates.
Q. Congratulations on being named the Network’s Outstanding Champion for 2007. Why have you taken such an active role in NEW?
A. I was attracted to NEW because of its mission of attracting, retaining and advancing women in the consumer products and retail industry through education, leadership and business development. It is a unique national model geared directly to executive- and management-level retail women leaders.
Q. You were cited for your critical role in getting the Network’s Greater Philadelphia regional committee organized--how did the group get up and running so fast?
A. After arriving back at Acme, I discussed the possibility of starting a Philadelphia chapter with [NEW Regional Chair] Bobbie O’Hare. But, before committing to it, two of my executives, Mary Taylor and Anne Marie Marasco, went to New York to observe a NEW event happening there. Their enthusiasm following that event said it all, and we started planning for the Philadelphia expansion with Bobbie and Tara Weiner, of Deloitte & Touche. In about three months, with the help of a board of vendor partners, we held the first event. It featured Denise Morrison, president of Campbell USA, and was a great success.
Q. What advice would you give to other regional committees based on your experience in Greater Philadelphia?
A. I would say that the most important step you can take is to develop a wide network of partners to support your efforts. Acme associates and our vendor partners have fully committed to the success of the Greater Philadelphia regional committee. This has established the group as a thriving part of the area’s retail industry.
Q. SuperValu is a recognized leader in the hiring and retention of employees from communities of need. The company’s Save-A-Lot banner has hired more than 4,400 employees from such communities, and SuperValu also sponsors the LEAD Summer Business Institute for high school seniors from underrepresented populations around the U.S. Tell us about the practical benefits of initiatives like these.
A. These programs not only help the company create an employee base that mirrors and truly understands our customers, but also helps further establish the company as a community partner.
Q. Let’s talk about gender diversity in the retail sector. How do you think the industry as a whole is doing in advancing women?
A. I believe the retail sector has made some great strides in supporting women. I have always believed that anyone, male or female, with talent and drive will succeed in this industry. The key in this business or any other industry is to be sure to create an environment where any individual has the opportunity to grow. That’s why NEW plays such an important support role for women in retail.
Q. What about women of color in our industry? Are there special needs there?
A. The industry has made progress in supporting all women. I truly believe that anyone with the passion for this business will succeed. Again, the key is creating an environment that supports and focuses on diversity and inclusion with the ultimate goal of developing high-talent individuals.
Q. What’s your personal experience been with mentoring?
A. Formal and informal mentoring has played a huge role in my career and life. I became passionate about this business because my first store director made me feel like I was a key player on his team and that his store could not run without me. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to benefit from the mentoring of managers, colleagues and friends. I am also committed to mentoring others in this business. Mentoring gives me such a real sense of satisfaction knowing I can use my years of real-world experience to help others prosper and grow.
Q. What are some of the other diversity best practices you recommend?
A. The key is to establish an atmosphere that encourages inclusion and support for not only diversity of race, gender, and so on, but also diversity of thought. The diversity of individual viewpoints is what makes a company strong. Encouragement and support create the foundation for leveraging the value of diversity.
Q. One last question. What advice would you give to a manager who wants to get to the top of our industry, as you have?
A. My advice would be to unlock the passion for what you are doing, and the rewards will follow. Also, I would advise you to surround yourself with the best possible team who can do your job better than you--make sure to check your ego at the door. And find joy in other people’s achievements.
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