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Meet the Team: Senior Director of Grocery Bob Serafin

Bob SerafinBob Serafin, Rite Aid’s new senior director of grocery, wants to be a sounding board for grocery suppliers. His message is clear: “I encourage our grocery suppliers to share their insights and innovations with me,” he says. “My door is always open to new and fresh ideas.”

The opportunity to join the Rite Aid team and redefine the drug channel grocery experience enticed Bob to bring his 35-plus years of grocery experience to Camp Hill, Pa. After a successful 25-year career at Carlisle, Pa.-based Giant Food Stores, Bob was enjoying his work at The Partnering Group (TPG), a Cincinnati, Ohio-based consulting firm, but the chance to “make a difference” led him to Rite Aid.

“I was working with some very bright and experienced people at TPG on some pretty interesting projects, but this opportunity was just so attractive that I couldn’t pass it up,” Bob says. “The chance to help develop Rite Aid’s grocery business and make a real and lasting contribution to the company’s future is so exciting. This is one of those times in your career when you know you can really make a difference.”

A life-long Pennsylvanian, Bob was a devout Boy Scout growing up, a passion that would eventually overtake his love for playing baseball by the time he reached high school. Despite this, his three sons would all go on to play college baseball, with his two younger sons actually competing against each other at a game in Florida.

He describes his entry into the grocery business as “dumb luck.” He spun records as a top-40 radio disc jockey early in his career until concerns about being able to support his family drove him to take a position at Wholesale Foods.

He worked in the purchasing department and took night classes to earn an accounting degree from nearby Kings College. After turning down opportunities to work for the IRS, his wholesale experience helped land him a position with Giant Food Stores, where he would eventually become a vice president. He also returned to school to pick up a master’s degree in food marketing from St. Joseph’s University.

“I had a great team there in Carlisle,” Bob says. “Many of those I worked with have gone on to enjoy very successful careers. The company treated me very well and we had a very strong collaborative network. I was encouraged to make decisions that would ultimately benefit our shoppers, our associates and our company.”

At Rite Aid, Bob sees that same commitment to collaboration and innovation, and is focused on working with grocery suppliers to bring their best ideas to Rite Aid. “We want to work with their top people and we want to be known as a progressive retailer that obviously competes in the drug channel, but a retailer that’s going to continue to do greater things in the future.”

Since coming to Rite Aid in April, Bob has been developing a strategy to build Rite Aid as a strong “fill-in” food source for customers between grocery store trips. The strategy strives to create a Rite Aid-brand grocery experience for customers with the goals of attracting new foot traffic and building the shopping baskets of existing customers. He sees opportunities in leveraging the popularwellness+ customer loyalty program – including +UP Rewards – and applying what was learned from the Rite Aid/Save-A-Lot test pilot. He’d also like to work with several national distributors to take advantage of opportunities for growth in the dairy and frozen food categories.

Bob sees opportunities to migrate Rite Aid’s grocery business from the traditional drugstore’s product-centric model to a model based on a more shopper-centric strategy in which the needs of shoppers dictate product decisions.

“When you look at successful retailers, whether in the food sector or not, they have a strategy. They understand their strategy, they know what they do well and they do it,” Bob says. “They don’t try to be everything to everybody, or change to the strategy of the week. It’s well thought out, consistently applied and then executed. That’s where we’ve got to go. If we can accomplish this in the long run, and I’m confident that we will, we’ll be extremely successful.”

Bob can be reached by telephone at (717) 731-3845 or by email at robert.b.serafin@riteaid.com.