Lidl has appointed Kenneth McGrath as the new deputy chairman of its international business, with the 46-year-old Irishman no stranger to the discount sector.
Cork native McGrath will assume his role on 1 October, Lidl's owner Schwarz Group announced on Wednesday, and report to the group's lead executive Gerd Chrzanowski, who is set to assume the chairmanship of Schwarz Group in due course.
Leading The Way At Lidl
From 2009 to 2013, McGrath led Lidl Ireland, during a period of significant growth, as both it and rival Aldi earned their place in the hearts of the recession-era shopper, while also boosting the number of products it sourced locally.
At Lidl Ireland, he was also outspoken about the grocery industry, telling an Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture in 2013 that the practice of ‘hello money’ and seeking payments from suppliers is “far removed from the daily business at Lidl".
As a result of his hard work, McGrath was rewarded with the role of leading Lidl's market entry into the US, overseeing the development of its Stateside headquarters in Virginia, and commencing the process of acquiring sites, chiefly along the east coast.
He was replaced by another former Lidl Ireland executive, Brendan Proctor, in 2015, with the discounter opening its first stores in the American market two years later. In April, the discounter announced the appointment of former Lidl Poland president Michal Lagunionek as its new US CEO.
After 13 years with Lidl, McGrath went on to work for Digicel, a telecommunications operator in the Caribbean, before he was tempted back into retail in 2017, as the chief executive of US-based discounter Save-A-Lot, following its split from the Supervalu brand.
“Kenneth is a strong executive who brings to Save-A-Lot tremendous experience in hard-discount retailing," Matthew Ross, chairman of the Save-A-Lot board of directors said at the time of his appointment. "He is highly capable of building a world-class organisation, investing in the company’s capabilities and systems, and returning Save-A-Lot to industry-leading growth by leveraging its unique market position.”
At Save-A-Lot, McGrath oversaw the completion of a comprehensive recapitalisation of the business, repositioning of its store proposition, and significant deleveraging of its balance sheet, which reduced its debt by around $500 million and saw some $350 million in new capital invested in the business.
“With the completion of this recapitalisation, we are moving forward with a substantially stronger financial foundation as we continue serving our customers and executing our transformation plan,” McGrath commented in April 2020.
Developing A 'Dream Team'
He has been brought back into the Lidl fold by Chrzanowski, who, according to media reports, has made no secret of his desire to develop a 'dream team' at Lidl, following the departure of Klaus Gehrig.
"I am very pleased that in Kenneth McGrath we have been able to win back an international retail expert and manager with many years of experience, who has already contributed to our success," Chrzanowski said of his appointment.
Given his retail pedigree to date, Lidl may have picked the right man for the job.