With a network of supermarkets spread across Malta, Retail Marketing is among the island’s biggest retail chains. And now, as Founding Shareholder Vince Cilia brings his long career in the sector to a close, incoming Director Francesco Grasso is set on injecting new vigor into the organisation as it embarks on its next chapter.
“I’ve had the privilege to be one of the pioneers in the grocery industry in Malta, since the 1970s, and I’ve come to realise that now is the perfect time to bring in a new generation of talent into our company,” says Vince, before confidently handing over the reins. “I firmly believe that by dedicating resources to nurture and empower young professionals, we can lay a solid foundation for the future prosperity of Welbee’s.”
Francesco’s career has been defined, in his own words, by a passion for corporate finance, and mergers and acquisitions. “I spent over 10 years with one of the Big Four in Malta, predominantly working in financial advisory. There, I advised several large local companies, assisting them in strategic financial matters including raising finance, investment appraisals and advising through the mergers and acquisitions cycle,” he explains, by way of introduction.
Now, he is leveraging this experience as an independent consultant – experience that he considers instrumental for his new role as Director on the Board of Retail Marketing, where together with the company’s C-suite and other directors, he will contribute towards sustainable growth and the strategic development of the group.
Among his landmark career moments so far, Francesco was involved in the amalgamation of Welbee’s, bringing together prominent local supermarket chains. Looking back on this experience, he maintains, “I had the privilege of forming part of the exceptional team assessing the financial aspects of the merger, ensuring a smooth transition and the successful integration of the organisations.”
Setting his sights on the future, he continues, “I have the utmost respect and admiration for Vince. His legacy in the industry is truly remarkable.” Indeed, his predecessor was among the pioneers in the grocery industry in Malta, having formed part of the sector since the 1970s. Since then, of course, the business landscape in the industry has witnesses significant transformation. “Technological advancements have revolutionised how consumers shop, especially with the rise of online grocery shopping post-COVID, which has become increasingly popular. Additionally, there is a notable shift towards sustainability, health-conscious choices and a growing emphasis on customer engagement and experience,” says Francesco.
Sharing his plans moving forward, the Director’s main priorities revolve around two fundamental pillars: “Firstly, contributing at Board level for continuing growth, which involves expanding our market presence organically within existing stores and also exploring opportunities for inorganic growth; and simultaneously, placing a strong emphasis on enhancing the customer experience in today’s competitive business landscape.”
Highlighting his thoughts on leadership, Francesco maintains, “in my view, a good business leader should possess qualities such as vision, the ability to inspire and motivate their team, adaptability, integrity, and a keen sense of empathy. It is essential to work hard, lead by example and consider all stakeholders when making business decisions.” As for major lessons he’s learnt along the way, he notes, “I believe that is it is not just about being in charge, but rather enabling and supporting your team to reach their full potential. When you invest in your team’s growth and wellbeing, you set the stage for success, not only for them but for the entire organisation.”
Meanwhile, he emphasises that the Board’s vision for Retail Marketing moving forward is twofold. “In the coming years, besides exploring viable growth opportunities, we plan to continue to invest in greater customer engagement and experience, which is done through multiple touchpoints including digital and e-commerce capabilities to meet the demands of the market. I think that the biggest challenge is increased competition – which also presents opportunities to differentiate ourselves,” he says. Concluding our chat with a final piece of advice for aspiring leaders, Francesco states simply: never stop learning. “The business environment is continually evolving, and the best leaders are those who stay curious, adapt to change, seek knowledge and feedback to grow personally and professionally.”
This interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders project. The new online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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