Inside This Issue - News
Pugh gets Retail Achievement award
January 13th, 2014
DEERFIELD, Ill. – The editors of MMR have selected Bryan Pugh, senior executive at Walgreen Co., to receive this publication’s first Retail Achievement award, a recognition marking a remarkable career, one that is noted for both its longevity and its accomplishment.
Pugh, 51, got his start in retailing in 1985 — 29 years ago — when he signed on at Sam’s Club, the warehouse club unit of Walmart, which at the time had only 12 stores. He spent eight years at Sam’s Club, playing a key role at the warehouse retailer as it emerged as one of what would be just three successful practitioners of the membership club concept. From its modest beginnings as a special project created by Walmart founder Sam Walton, the chain grew in seven years into a retailer with 256 stores and $12.34 billion a in sales. Sam’s Club also launched stores in Mexico through a joint venture with Cifra SA.
In early 1992, Pugh left Walmart and followed his mentor, Alvin Johnson, the retiring chief executive officer of Sam’s Club and Walmart vice chairman, and moved halfway around the world. Walton had died the previous year, and Walmart was undergoing a great deal of change. Pugh decided to leave the company and join Johnson, taking a senior executive position at the CP Group of Cos. in Hong Kong. Pugh served as vice president of business development at what would become Lotus Supercenters in China and Thailand.
Pugh spent the next 12 years in Asia, directing both operations and merchandising, as CP Group grew from a start-up. It began with a single 200,000-square-foot, two-floor hypermarket in Bangkok, and by the mid-1990s operated 12 additional outlets in Thailand and three in Shanghai.
In early 1997, Tesco, the British supermarket operator that at the time was the third-largest global retailer, bought a 51% stake in Lotus in Thailand. Pugh moved over to the joint venture between Tesco and CP Group and spent his remaining years in Asia there. Tesco grew the 13-store Thai business over the next eight years into a 500-store chain that operated four formats — hypermarkets, deep-discount stores in outlying cities, supermarkets and convenience stores under the Express banner. At the same time, Tesco expanded the 100,000-square-foot Lotus distribution center to over 2 million square feet to service $1.5 billion in annual sales by 2005.
Along the way, Pugh ran format development for Tesco in Thailand and then served as chief operating officer from 2003 to 2005, with responsibility for store operations, supply chain, marketing and store design. By the time Pugh left Thailand in 2005, Tesco had 500 stores in that country, enough to give it the No. 1 market share there.
Pugh remembers his years in Thailand with special fondness. "I spent seven years there, after spending three years in China and two years in Taiwan," he recalls. "I had challenging but rewarding assignments and was part of a fast-growth, high-paced business that was expanding in many countries at the same time.
"The years in Asia under Johnson and Tesco helped me build my retail knowledge and understanding, which could not have happened if I stayed in the United States. They were particularly rewarding years."
During that period Tesco also asked Pugh to explore opportunities in Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand, in each case as part of a four-person team. None of these opportunities materialized. However, had any of them proven viable, he would likely have been named “chief operating officer or country manager” of a new enterprise that emerged.
Instead, Pugh’s next assignment brought him to the United States where, in 2006, he was named head of operations, a key member of the initial group brought here by Tesco to open Fresh & Easy small/grocery convenience stores in Southern California, Phoenix and Las Vegas. In two years the company opened some 130 Fresh & Easy units, but the concept sputtered and never gained traction.
During the fall of 2008, Pugh was contacted by Walgreens and asked to join the 7,000-store drug chain. It was the right opportunity at the right time, and he made the move to Deerfield, Ill.
Next month will mark his fifth anniversary at Walgreens, a period that has seen him successfully take on a variety of roles in both merchandising and operations. Most recently, he was promoted to a key operating assignment, coordinating operating and merchandising functions. Characteristic of Pugh, he is as optimistic about his current duties as he has been at every turn during his 29-year retailing career.
"I’m deeply honored to be here at this particular time," he says, "primarily because I’m surrounded by a team that combines the veteran group that has built Walgreens into this incredible retailer with some newcomers who have brought new ideas, new thinking and new ways of approaching the business. As a result of this blend of talent we are in a position to open a variety of stores — conventional, flagship, university and small-format convenience stores — that no drug chain before us has succeeded in undertaking. I feel privileged that I’m allowed to be a part of this."
The delight is not all on Pugh’s side. In bringing this retailing executive to Deerfield, Walgreens has secured one of the stellar retailing performers the industry has developed in the past three decades, a man who, over 29 years, has been instrumental in developing, building and refining the dominant retail formats of the current era. For that tenure, and those accomplishments, the editors of MMR are delighted to acknowledge Bryan Pugh’s impact on retailing.