Retail veteran makes convenience of Magnolia Gold

Retail veteran Jeroen de Groot, president of METRO China, has scooped yet another Magnolia Gold Award for services to the development and retail industry.
Ti Gong

                                                                 Jeroen de Groot, president of METRO China

RETAIL veteran Jeroen de Groot, president of METRO China, has scooped yet another Magnolia Gold Award for services to the development and retail industry.

The honor will go proudly alongside the Magnolia Silver Award he received two years ago. De Groot was among 11 individuals presented with the prize last month, given annually by the city government to foreigners who make a significant contribution to Shanghai’s development.

He was recognized for contributions made by him, and the German retail giant, to the city’s economic development, food safety improvement and social welfare.

”It is a big honor to be chosen and awarded after a relatively short period in Shanghai,” said de Groot, who was appointed to CEO of METRO China in 2013 after being transferred from his previous position of Chief Operating Officer with the METRO Group in Dusseldorf.

The energetic and genial 59-year-old Dutchman became visibly excited whenever the conversation turned to METRO or the retail business, where he has spent the best part of the last three decades.

He attributed the local government’s support to its success.

”Over the past 20 years, we have been rooted in Putuo District. Starting from here, we gradually achieved a steady and solid growth in China,” De Groot said.

”The government of Putuo is very open-minded and has a mind-set of innovation. It is always there to serve and help enterprises in the district,” he added.

Citing an example, he added: “Putuo district government has given a lot of support and guidance on our sustainable development and green operations. For example, in 2015, we installed a solar plant in our Putuo store, which could help reduce 20 percent of the store’s fossil energy consumption.”

De Groot started his career as a supermarket management trainee in the Netherlands and then made the retail business his lifelong profession. During the past 25 years, he has been working in management for wholesale and retail giants such as Makro and METRO, in Thailand, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Vietnam, Austria and Germany. Now he has settled down in Shanghai with his family.

Though the traditional retail market has been affected by a slowing economy, and online shopping in China, METRO China has gradually grown under the leadership of de Groot in the last three years.

It has opened 90 stores in 58 Chinese cities, with over 12,000 employees and total sales of 19.37 billion yuan (US$2.93 billion). And around five new METRO stores are opened annually in China.

”Within 21 years in China, METRO has built a very good reputation on quality and safety, with a lot of efforts gone on things such as a food traceability system, hazard analysis control certification and support to local farmers,” de Groot said.

METRO has been renowned for its food traceability system and the city government is trying to promote it citywide.

To ensure the quality from the source, METRO China has been training and supporting local farmers they had selected to increase and output and ensure quality.

”Safety is the minimum requirement,” de Groot said. “Consumers should only have to think about the food taste, rather than take safety as a concern.”

With these efforts, METRO China became the authorized food suppliers of Beijing Olympics, Shanghai World Expo and other major events.

De Groot announced earlier this year that METRO China will make all of its fresh products traceable by 2020. And the company’s contribution goes far beyond that.

De Groot and the group CEO of METRO are regular guests of Shanghai’s IBLAC annual meeting. They are invited by the city government to give suggestions on the city’s future development.

De Groot, seems to have found his spiritual home in Shanghai, after years of travelling around the world. The retail giant admits his adopted city is special to him, even more so by being honored with Magnolia awards.

His two Magnolia medals are now pride of place on the top of a shelf in his Putuo District office, alongside a dozen of his other awards. He keeps many of his memories there, including a wooden carving presented by a grassroots employee, and his cosplay photo of Elvis Presley during the annual company party.

He also keeps a photo of when he first came to the city in 2006 with other company officials. It is beside another photo taken earlier this year on the Bund, also with company officials. De Groot said he is the only one who appears in both photos.

”It is great to have this experiences to live in Shanghai and it is the memory I would never forget,” he said.

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