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Staying a Step Ahead of Change
By: Tom Haraldsen
December 1, 2011
Mark Tuffin loves challenges. He also loves the food industry. So it was a perfect match when Tuffin was named president of the Smith’s Food and Drug Stores division of Kroger in July. By that time, he’d already completed a formidable assignment for Kroger—implementing an organizational restructuring that affected 18 of the company’s retail divisions.
“That’s probably the accomplishment I’m proudest of,” he says. “We wanted to get all of our divisions in alignment, structured in a fairly similar manner. It took us almost two years to finish. The concept was working on ‘back stage’ things, non-customer-related work, to create an infrastructure where we could economize our employee’s efforts.”
The process, primarily focused on helping the organization better serve its customers, gave him “a great window into Kroger as an organization, seeing how the different divisions interact and how we could be more efficient,” he says.
Tuffin’s responsibilities now cover 132 Smith’s Food and Drug locations in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming; together, these locations employ about 14,000 associates.
A native of Great Britain, Tuffin grew up in the grocery business.
“My family was in the industry for a long time, so I gained some great perspective,” he says. Following his collegiate studies in economics in London, he came to the United States and loved it, eventually moving to Utah and joining the Smith’s team in 1996. He has held several leadership roles in merchandising for Kroger, as well as coordinating the restructuring.
“The grocery industry is fast paced and constantly changing. When you think about the food industry and everything it touches, it’s affected by so many things—the economy, food safety, inflation. At some point, those all connect to this industry.”
Tuffin says continued improvements in technology also bring with them the need to adapt.
“In the past, we often went with our ‘gut instinct’ when looking at our customer’s needs and wants,” he says. “Technology has aided us greatly in becoming more proficient at adjusting to those needs. It’s also helping us as we continually look at new concepts in store layout and design.”
When he gets some time away from the office, Tuffin loves the outdoors.
“Skiing, snowmobiling, boating, hunting—we love living in Utah and all that it offers us to be able to play and relax. It’s just trying to find the time to enjoy it that’s a challenge.”