The Spotlight is On … Lee Lambeth, GrocerKey Chief Operating Officer

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In just a few years, we’ve grown GrocerKey from a young startup into a thriving organization transforming the face of grocery retail. But we couldn’t have done it without the talents and perseverance of our amazing team. Read our spotlight series to meet the GrocerKey staff, hear their insight into the industry, and learn about the incredible work they are doing — inside and outside of the company. 

As GrocerKey’s Chief Operating Officer, Lee Lambeth knows the ins-and-outs of the grocery eCommerce business. He spends his days overseeing all operational aspects of the company, from dealing with clients as part of our Account teams, to collaborating with developers as our internal teams strive to refine and optimize our digital products. While he’s been in the grocery business for more than 30 years, Lee says the constant evolution of the industry keeps him intrigued. Read on to learn more about Lee. 

How did you get your start in the grocery industry?

I started out bagging groceries, and went on to do nearly everything under the sun; I worked as a merchandiser, manager, regional director, the director of eCommerce operations at Lowe’s Foods. When I graduated from college, [grocery] was the last thing I thought I’d do. My first job was selling fax and copier machines in rural North Carolina. 

You’ve been in the industry for a long time. What is the biggest change you’ve experienced? 

First, there just wasn’t eCommerce. The assumption was you opened the door and the people would come. There wasn’t a lot of competition and there weren’t 10-12 different retail options — there were two or three. The expansion of the number of competitors and the different ways in which you can shop, the whole omnichannel experience, is new. 

The assumption was you opened the door and the people would come … But it’s evolving. We’ve taken a whole approach to creating an experience for guests.” 

What do you enjoy about your role in the grocery industry? Why do you stay? 

It’s what’s next that keeps me intrigued. You think you have this business that’s going to be replicated over and over again. You think you’re going to put groceries on the shelf and people are going to come in. But it’s evolving. From the merchandising, to the displays, to the ways that you engage with the customer. We’ve taken a whole approach to creating an experience for guests. The question we ask is ‘How are we going to continue to refine that process, and keep it exciting and interesting?’ 

Is there anything about the evolution of the grocery industry that stands out? 

We’re all selling the same products and service, so I think it comes down to what you do to differentiate yourself. Today, I can go into my local grocery store and have a glass of wine or beer. In some grocery stores, people are coming to hang out, have a beer and play games and trivia. There’s areas with tables and couches. It’s about pulling people together and building a sense of community at the grocery store. 

Do you have any predictions about the grocery industry over the next few years?

I think we’re going to see more competition, and we’re going to see some consolidation. The organization that doesn’t invest in eCommerce is going to find it hard to operate. A lot of the smaller chains are beginning to feel that pinch — they’ve got to change or they will become obsolete. I think the next question is how will we get to 25% [the FMI prediction that 25% of grocery shopping will take place online]. We may see smaller stores with warehouses to help ship out product. More consolidated offerings. In-store retail applications. It’s’ really going to change.  

What personal accomplishments at GrocerKey are you most proud of?

Developing a team of business minded leaders who look to provide  world class support and guidance to our retail partners as they scale their eCommerce business.” “Throughout this process we want to be by their side helping them reach their full potential and grow their business.” 

What motivates or inspires you outside of your work?

Definitely my kids. I have two daughters and a son. They keep me young and they keep me old! We’re really into travel softball and baseball, so we’re always on the road. I also do a lot of baseball coaching.  

Favorite way to wind down? 

Any outdoor activities, especially those spent on the water. I love kneeboarding and surfing, and boating. 

What music are you listening to these days? 

Lately a lot of 90’s rock including the STP’s, Red Hot Chili Peppers, mixed in with newer artists like Blue Scholars and Dirty Heads. 

Favorite place to travel?

Carribean. Anywhere with water, sun, sand.  

What’s a fun fact about you? 

I went to the same high school as Michael Jordan. Occasionally he’d come back to visit. I thought I was going to be the next big thing in basketball. Wilmington has film studios and I’ve been in a few movies over the years. 

What’s in your grocery basket?

Lean protein like chicken breast, fresh vegetables, loaf of fresh bread, and a cold adult beverage.  

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