Mega Group CEO Chris West, right, with financial services chief Kevin Leier
Further fostering independents’ advantages
By Andy Kriege, YSN
It’s only been six months since Chris West took over the top spot at Mega Group BrandSource Canada, AVB’s north-of-the-border affiliate, but it’s as if he’s been preparing for the role for decades.
That’s because buying organization’s recently named president/CEO brings 25 years of diverse retail experience to the job, encompassing such disciplines as merchandising, supply chain, global sourcing and private-label development.
Besides his nearly three-year stint as Lowe’s Canada’s top merchant, West served as commercial operations VP at Asda, the British supermarket chain, and spent almost seven years at Walmart Canada as VP of sourcing and product development.
“I have had the privilege of working for some amazing companies and I count this group among the best,” he said. “I am an entrepreneur at heart, so I am excited to use the toolbox that I built over all these past years to help make our retailers stronger and to help them win.”
West spent his first months at Mega traveling and getting to know members, vendors and staff. “I have been drinking from a firehose and soaking up as much as possible along the way,” he said.
For now, his priority is to not make any wholesale changes, but rather to step back and learn the intricacies of the organization. “I have worked for lot of great companies, but I am not coming over here with their blueprints,” he said. “Once I learn more about all the details and nuances of this group, we can start on the continuous journey to making things better wherever we can.”
West plans on keeping the group focused on what it does best: marketing, merchandising and e-commerce. “I want to make sure we focus on the value-added things we do best as a buying group and not try to be something we are not,” he said. “With 900-plus members, you can’t be all things to everyone without diluting your efforts. Our goal is to focus on bringing a cache of value to our members. We need to have killer capabilities in what we do best and win with those.”
West intends to get more engagement and input from the members and to offer them value. “We will focus on what the members are interested in engaging in,” he said. “If they don’t see value in what you are doing, they will not invest the time and money to make it work. They are smart folks; when it makes them more money, they buy into it.”
West believes that independents have an inherent advantage over their corporate counterparts. “If you give a good idea to an independent vs. a corporate store, the independent will win every time,” he said. “It’s personal to them, as their legacy is on the line. They will execute better and win every time.”
Kevin Leier, president/CFO of Mega Financial Services, who preceded West as interim CEO, said he knew he was the right fit for the group.
“The transition has been absolutely seamless,” Leier said. “Chris has only been here for a few months, but it feels like he’s been here for years. He is putting a laser focus on the things that we can execute and deliver on, including building an even stronger relationship with AVB Marketing to further develop our websites and digital marketing.”
West said it is important to focus on the retail fundamentals now that the tailwinds of COVID have subsided. “After two or three years of the customers driving the bus, we now need to get behind the wheel and convince them to board the bus and come along for the ride,” he said.
West has seen a good bit of the world, as his career has taken him not only across Canada but across the pond. An Ontario native from a small town outside of Toronto, he has lived throughout the country and also spent time in Indiana, Germany and England. He draws on this diverse life experience for his leadership journey at Mega Group BrandSource Canada. “Not only did those experiences give me a broader perspective, but each also taught me to adapt to many different situations and working environments,” he said.
Away from the office, West enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters at home in Montreal. When not attending his kids’ afterschool activities, you’ll find him outdoors, where he pursues a new passion for bicycling that he picked up during the pandemic.
West will meet the greater AVB community for the first time at this month’s 2023 Summit in Las Vegas, where Mega Group BrandSource Canada members will convene and commune with their fellow affiliates.
YSN publisher AVB BrandSource is the nation’s largest merchandising and marketing co-op for independent appliance, mattress, furniture and CE dealers.