Pictured: Jesper Højer (Left), Brad Dickerson (Right)
The CEOs of two food retail players hoping to increase their U.S. footprint are leaving their roles — Jesper Højer, CEO of discount grocer Lidl, and Brad Dickerson, CEO of meal kit company Blue Apron, have both stepped down.
Both had relatively brief tenures as CEO — Højer first took the post in February 2017, whereas Dickerson started as President and CEO in December 2017. Lidl Deputy Purchasing Director Ignazio Paternó has been named as Interim Leader until a full-time CEO is found, while Blue Apron went outside the company, bringing in Etsy COO Linda Kozlowski to fill the full-time role.
The departures of Højer, Dickerson and Papas come under different circumstances, with Højer’s appearing to be more unexpected. Højer specifically mentioned in a statement that it was “time to realign my family and professional future,” suggesting that his resignation was related to a personal matter. The Germany-based grocer saw an estimated 5.2% revenue growth in its home country in its most recent annual financial report, with 11% revenue growth internationally.
On the other hand, Dickerson and Papas presided over a business that saw net revenue dip 24% in 2018, driven primarily by a decrease in customers. Total net loss was $122.1 million for the year, as the company saw total customers dip from 746,000 at the end of 2017 to 557,000 to close out 2018. This customer retention problem has been the biggest issue for Blue Apron’s growth, even more so than competitors in the meal kit space such as HelloFresh or the Plated and Home Chef brands, which have been acquired by Albertsons and Kroger respectively.
When she starts as Blue Apron CEO on April 8, Kozlowski will have the task of turning around a business that bottomed out at $0.66 per share on the NYSE only 18 months after its IPO debuted at $10.
Højer, who has been on Lidl’s board since 2015, took on the CEO role following the departure of Sven Seidel, who left the company after nearly three years at the top because of differing views on Lidl’s business direction. His departure comes at a bad time for Schwarz Group, the German owner and operator of Lidl. Less than three weeks ago, Patrick Kaudewitz, CEO of Schwarz Group’s other major supermarket chain Kaufland, also resigned abruptly.
Lidl operates approximately 10,500 stores in 29 countries, with American growth being a major priority for the supermarket. Lidl U.S. operates approximately 80 stores (counting its November 2018 acquisition of 27 Best Market stores in New York and New Jersey) and the division named its own new chairman in February with the appointment of Roman Heini. In May 2018, Lidl named Lidl Sweden CEO Johannes Fieber as President and CEO of Lidl U.S.