Veteran executive receives MMR's Lifetime Achievement Award
GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. — Todd Vasos began an exciting new leadership chapter at Dollar General Corp. on November 1 as he transitioned from chief executive officer to senior advisor. The new role underscores the leadership, mentorship and perpetual evolution that has defined Vasos’ retail career for nearly four decades.
MMR is proud to honor Vasos with a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his successful and impactful career, including accomplishments achieved during his CEO tenure at Dollar General.
Vasos’ career in retail began in a manner as humble as the man himself. In 1983, Vasos was a recent graduate from Western Carolina University, having earned his degree in marketing. At his mother’s request, he applied to a local newspaper advertisement for Eckerd Corp.’s management training program. Vasos was one of six selected to participate in the program out of hundreds who applied. He was immediately fascinated with retail.
At Eckerd, Vasos rose quickly through store operations ranks from assistant store manager to store manager, district manager and regional manager before joining Phar-Mor Food and Drug Inc., where he led the operations teams and later served as a merchant. In 2001, Vasos joined Longs Drug Stores Corp. as senior vice president and chief merchandising officer, where he was responsible for all pharmacy and front-end marketing, merchandising, procurement, supply chain, advertising, store development, store layout and space allocation, as well as the operation of three distribution centers. He was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer at Longs Drug in 2006.
“My career prior to Dollar General was primarily on the pharmacy and drug side of the business,” Vasos recalled. “When I came and looked at [Dollar General] stores, they reminded me of the drug stores of the early 1980s, which at the time really served as the successors to the old general store. I knew that business well, and I was immediately attracted to Dollar General. Also, as I learned more about the company, its mission of Serving Others and taking care of underserved customers, I was certain this would be a good fit.”
Vasos brought his drug store experience to Dollar General in 2008 when he joined as executive vice president, division president and chief merchandising officer. He then served as Dollar General’s chief operating officer from 2013 until being named CEO in June 2015.
As Dollar General’s CEO, Vasos embarked on a journey that would transform the retailer’s trajectory while remaining focused on consumers’ rapidly changing needs and preserving the company’s meaningful culture and mission.
His leadership was rooted in taking Dollar General from a quarter-to-quarter, transactional type of a business into a very strategic company with long-term outlook, a promise he made to its board of directors.
“It was a paradigm shift in 2015, but today it’s integrated into our culture,” Vasos shared. “We now have three meetings a year where we solely focus on strategy, and our board of directors’ involvement is integral. When we leave these meetings, the board and management are fully aligned, and we can start executing at what we affectionately call the speed of DG.”
As part of this approach, Dollar General implemented several key strategic initiatives, all of which were created and rolled out under Vasos’ leadership. These include DG Fresh, the self-distribution of frozen and refrigerated goods; NCI, a nonconsumable initiative that’s in nearly all Dollar General stores today and inspired the company’s newest retail concept, pOpshelf; DG Fast Track that increased labor productivity, enhanced customer convenience and further improved on-shelf availability; as well as a digital initiative that builds engagement and complements the company’s brick- and-mortar footprint.
Another of Vasos’ key strategies was the company’s cooler installation and expansion program, which not only expanded the perishables business of dairy, deli and frozen foods, but is importantly rooted in customer requests to provide nearby access to these products.
“When I joined Dollar General, we had roughly four to five cooler doors in each store,” Vasos said. “We’re building stores now with, on average, about 36 cooler doors per store. That continues to be a differentiator. It really has set us apart from the rest of small-box retailing and is by far our most impactful merchandising initiative to date.”
Vasos further leaned on his drug store roots by redefining Dollar General’s health and beauty offerings, transforming those categories into a destination for customers. In 2008, these departments accounted for 12 to 16 feet of devoted shelf space. Through Vasos’ vision and experience, a strategic DG well-being initiative was launched, and the company’s first chief medical officer was hired. As a result, today these sections now provide more than 100 feet of shelf space.
“By number of stores, we’re the largest retailer in America,” Vasos says. “In many small towns where we operate, there are no pharmacies or doctors. People who may need care often have to drive 20, 30, 40 miles or more, and if we can bring supplemental health care to rural America, I think it could be a big win for our customers.”
Vasos also led Dollar General’s self-checkout rollout, which he points out should be available in more than 13,000 stores by February 2023. He also quickly accelerated DG Pickup at the onset of COVID-19 from 30 stores to nearly chain-wide today. Other significant initiatives include Dollar General’s efforts, which began as a pilot of 100 stores in 2017, to provide and expand fresh produce offerings beyond DG Market formats. Fresh produce is now offered in more than 3,000 Dollar General stores, with plans to expand to more than 10,000 total stores in the coming years, with a meaningful number in food deserts.
His influence is equally evident through the launch of the DG Private Fleet, which is now one of the largest private fleets in the country, and Dollar General’s distribution center investments across the U.S. Additionally, Vasos introduced a “Save 2 Serve” cost-reduction philosophy, and put significant emphasis on the expansion of private brand during his tenures as both CMO and CEO.
It’s no surprise that, based on the myriad innovative and transformational efforts led by Vasos, he and Dollar General have earned a number of accolades. He was named among Mass Market Retailers’ list of Top 50 Executives in Mass Market Retailing in 2022, a Most Admired CEO by Nashville Business Journal in 2021 and received the Professional Achievement Award from his Western Carolina University alma mater in 2017.
His leadership also propelled Dollar General to Fortune magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies List in 2020 and 2022; Forbes Top 25 Corporate Responders to the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020; Mass Market Retailers’ Retailer of the Year in 2019 and 2020; and recognition by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index for its workplace inclusion efforts in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
In July 2022, Vasos announced plans to retire in April 2023 and stated, “Serving my fellow employees, our customers and our communities as CEO has been the greatest privilege of my career. Together, we ushered in an era of unrivaled growth while staying true to our mission of Serving Others. Today, we are so much more than a dollar store, proudly serving millions of Americans as their neighborhood general store.”
When he transitions solely to a board of directors role this spring, Vasos plans to take a very meaningful memento from his office — a photograph of Cal Turner Jr., Jeff Owen and himself.
“I think that picture embodies our culture and mission, and it illustrates the fact that the legacy of the company is very much intact, reaching back from today to the time of the founding members of the Turner family,” said Vasos.
Looking ahead, Dollar General strives to build on Vasos’ store format modernization and innovative efforts that include DGX, pOpshelf, and international expansion into Mexico with Mi Super Dollar General stores.
Vasos is confident that current CEO Jeff Owen will build upon the foundation laid over the past several years and successfully lead Dollar General into the future, as the company still has a lot of runway ahead.
“Having worked with Jeff for many years, I am confident in his leadership abilities and capability to lead Dollar General into our next chapter of growth and service,” Vasos said.
When asked about the Dollar General legacy he seeks to leave behind, Vasos’ genuine humility shines.
“The way I look at it, if you always leave something better than you found it, no matter what job you have, then you’ll be successful and your company will be successful,” Vasos shared. “I can only hope people say that Todd left Dollar General better than he found it.”
Given the successes at Dollar General during his tenure, it’s clear that Vasos’ legacy is secure.
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