Unlike the other Loblaw Companies Limited employees we’ve featured during our Focus on Retail this week, Suhaila Agnew started her career at Loblaw directly as an entry level Associate Merchant, not in the grad@Loblaw program.
However, the Queen’s University commerce graduate also had the opportunity to take part in orientation and training activities when she first started.
“I was drawn to the work/life balance and unique culture, such as flex hours, GoodLife membership and sports leagues, and of course, the opportunities to work with other ‘foodies’ like me!”
—Suhaila Agnew, Associate Merchant, Loblaw
She had to take some mandatory online courses, participate in hands-on classroom sessions and complete evaluations pertaining to her role as an Associate Merchant.
Keep reading for our full interview with Suhaila about her experience so far as an entry level employee at Loblaw.
Q. What do you currently do on a day-to-day basis in your role at Loblaw?
A. As an Associate Merchant, I am responsible for executing our category’s promotional strategies, and managing our category’s inventory and bottom line every period. I work closely with my category manager, merchant and our vendor partners in order to put together promotional programs to grow our market share and the overall profitability of our category.
Utilizing analytical and marketing skill sets I learned during my studies at Queen’s University allows me to implement changes to improve the retail experiences for our consumers. For instance, collaborating with our supply chain and planogram teams ensures we have an optimal assortment of items on shelf in order to drive sales across our banners.
Q. Why did you choose to work at Loblaw?
A. Loblaw Companies was my top employer of choice as they are the largest food retailer in Canada, presenting me with the opportunity to gain a strong foundation in the retail business. The fact that Loblaw has so many avenues of marketing and merchandising further attracted me to the business.
I was also drawn to the work/life balance and unique culture, such as flex hours, GoodLife membership and sports leagues, and of course, the opportunities to work with other “foodies” like me!
Q. What was your experience like when you first started?
A. Although I was quite nervous on my first day, the orientation program at Loblaw was very organized and structured, and put me right at ease. My first couple of weeks was similar to being back at school, as I had to complete mandatory online courses, hands-on classroom sessions, and evaluations which pertained to my role as an associate merchant.
I even had a dedicated “Super Coach” team who was just a phone call away if I had questions on a certain process or wanted to request additional training. Throughout my first three months, my category manager met with me frequently to monitor my transition and to discuss my personal goals and career aspirations.
I was also had a buddy, who showed me the ropes as well as helped me through my day-to-day responsibilities. Now I have become a buddy and help new Associate Merchants and grads transition into their new roles!
Q. What has surprised you the most about the retail industry and Loblaw?
A. Although Canadian retail is vast in size and market share, the people behind the retail scene is actually quite small and interconnected, in comparison. At the end of 2010, I attended a retail conference, and was quite surprised at how many people I knew, whom I interact with on a regular basis.
Click here to learn more about the grad@Loblaw program and other entry level opportunities at
Loblaw Companies Limited.
Due to the fact that Loblaw is a leading player in the grocery retail industry we are intermingled with other facets of the retail industry such as ACNielsen, suppliers, and vendor management teams, opening the doors to learn other avenues of the retail world.
Q. What has been your most valuable experience at Loblaw so far?
A. When I first started at Loblaw in June, my category was in the middle of introducing new planograms for Loblaw’s various store formats. I was forced to quickly learn and appreciate the 24-week process of getting an item on shelf as well as learn about upcoming trends within our category from my team and vendor partners. It was great to experience this process early on in my role as I had to jump with both feet and really got to know the sales and history behind each listing in the category.
Q. How do you see your career progressing in the near future with Loblaw?
A. Working in the merchandising business unit, I am fortunate to work closely with many other teams such as marketing, supply chain, and finance, giving me a glimpse to the variety of roles and functions within the company. Loblaw’s is a business which supports change and advancement.
Realistically, I can see myself sticking close to merchandising, as it is the heart of the retail industry. However, it would be a great learning experience to work with the brands team on Loblaw’s private label products such as President’s Choice®, no name® and Joe Fresh, some of Canada’s most recognized and successful brands.
Q. What is one piece advice you have for students and new grads who are interested in starting their careers in the retail industry with Loblaw?
A. The retail industry is a dynamic and highly competitive industry. If you are interested in starting your career with Loblaw, make sure to get out and visit the different store formats and competitor stores to better understand retail strategy and the overall environment!
For a list of entry level opportunities for recent grads, visit Loblaw’s company profile on TalentEgg or www.loblaw.ca and click on ‘careers.’
Recruitment for the next intake for the grad@Loblaw program will begin in Fall 2011. To learn more, visit www.loblawgrad.ca and the grad@Loblaw Facebook page.