Director, Supply Chain Optimization
As director of supply chain optimization for one of America’s largest consumer products companies, Debra Grosh has a unique vantage point on retailing.
One of Debbie’s chief responsibilities at Coca-Cola North America is overseeing the beverage giant’s relationships in the “dollar store” value discount channel, which A.C. Nielsen has called the fastest-growing segment in retailing.
Prior to joining Coca-Cola as Regional Logistics Manager in 1997, and then moving to the Director of Supply Chain role, Debbie was Customer Service Manager for McCormick & Co., Inc., and held various positions of increasing responsibility in operations, materials and distribution during her 11 years at Procter & Gamble Mfg. Co.
Debbie Grosh is treasurer of the Network of Executive Women and an avid supporter of the Network’s mission of professional development and diversity. She resides in Atlanta and has an undergraduate degree from McDaniel College and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.
Q. It was nice seeing you at the NEW Summit. What lessons did you take away from the meeting?
A. I continue to be amazed at the enthusiasm and energy about the mission of our Network, as evidenced by the outstanding attendance we had at this event. It was our largest event ever, and we had some very high-powered women present.
Q. Can you describe your current duties?
A. Currently, in my role developing value discounter channel opportunities, I report through our Supply Chain Operations Team, although I also work very closely with Sales, Manufacturing and Finance. I also manage our Corporate Product Donation organization. That is a rewarding area, because I am part of giving back to the community. Coca-Cola is a wonderful supporter of many worthwhile community activities all over the country, and the world, for that matter.
Q. How did you wind up in the industry, and Coca-Cola in particular?
A. I actually started briefly in banking, and was on a recruiting trip for the bank when I ran into a recruiter from P&G. Consumer products and manufacturing fascinated me. The rest is history.
Q. Let’s talk about the dollar store phenomenon. It’s a very unique segment, isn’t it?
A. The Value Discounter Channel, as I prefer to call it, is very unique and lots of fun. It is the fastest-growing retail segment, and it can also be very creative compared to traditional channel practices. Some of these stores sell clothes and furniture. And the price-point range in these accounts is much wider than one dollar, so I prefer the Value Discounter descriptor. Household penetration reached 66 percent in 2003, up from 52 percent in 1999. One of these major accounts will tell you that they draw the high-end shopper. Just look at the cars in their parking lots!
Q. Coca-Cola products are already well-known and promoted. Why sell in value discount stores?
A. Coca-Cola has the best distribution system in the world. When you are shopping, and are thirsty, wouldn’t you want to buy a Coke, no matter where you are? Perhaps your shopping trip today will take you to this channel. Tomorrow, you shop at a grocery or club store or stop at a C&P. Coke product availability is the key.
Q. Is it a big market?
A. Absolutely. There are about 15,000 stores in the top four VDC chains. It’s a huge opportunity.
Q. Who shops at value discount stores? What are the different demographic segments?
A. As I mentioned, 66 percent of U.S. households are shopping this channel. There are some different targets, but the primary target group includes those earning less than $35,000 annually. There is a slight skew toward the high-school-educated female, African American, Hispanic and elderly consumer. But the bargain shoppers are there at all levels of income.
Q. What are the special challenges of selling in value discount stores?
A. One challenge is getting the packaging and pricing right for their consumer. This is just the opposite of the club channel, which is also growing rapidly. You also have to explore the traditional and alternative routes to market. There are also advantages, of course - you can sell a single item in this channel when you have some excess - for example, when you convert to new graphics on a particular label.
Q. Without giving anything away, is it fair to say that this a profitable segment for CCNA?
A. Our business in the Value Discounter Segment is strong and healthy.
Q. The members of the Network thank you for your service as treasurer and Coca-Cola’s continued sponsorship of the NEW at the title level. What kind of response have you had from this support?
A. The support has been wonderful – you meet some truly talented and energetic women, and “situational mentors”-- I just invented a new term. These are the women who have different skill-sets, and you build a network of women that is not often not available in any one company alone. So if you’re working on a new marketing project, or going into a high powered political meeting with new members, or get a promotion, or get fired, you can pull from this wealth of knowledge. It is very non-threatening for young women who are emerging leaders, as well as those who have been in our industry for some time. There is a great deal of satisfaction in helping other junior women in our industry.
On a corporate level, Coca-Cola is a true believer in diversity, as we market our diverse products around the world. CCNA recognizes that a diverse talented group of associates reflects the marketplace and will result in a motivated and connected environment, and will create a wider range of products for our consumers. We in the Network thanks CCNA for being a key founding sponsor, and all of our sponsors as well. They have been fantastic!
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