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Q&A: A day in the life of an award-winning grocery store manager

QFC Store Leader and FMI Store Manager Award winner Alex Spurlock talks about her path to success and highlights the most significant lesson she's learned so far.

10 min read

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FMI Store Manager Award winner Alex Spurlock


Ten years ago, when Alex Spurlock was looking for an employment opportunity to support her during a major pivot in her life, she took a job in the deli at her local Kroger-owned QFC grocery store. There, the team leader skills she developed over the years as a soccer player were strengthened as she quickly realized that a strong grocery store is an integral part of a strong community. Soon, Spurlock moved up the ranks to her current position of store leader of QFC in Redmond, Wash., where she has led her team to be the first location to earn a perfect customer experience score while also boosting ecommerce sales and exceeding her own goals for pickup rates. In recognition of her efforts and successes, Spurlock was named a 2024 Store Manager Award winner by FMI — The Food Industry Association. Here, she takes time to sit down with SmartBrief to discuss her path to success, highlight the most significant lesson she’s learned so far and walk through an average day in her life as a grocery store manager.

When did you first get a job in the grocery industry, and what led you to that job?

I got my first job in the industry in 2013. I came out of the restaurant industry, more or less, and a part of my story is I got sober. I had kind of been living a little bit rough and was trying to turn my life around and I knew that I needed a job with health insurance. My roommate worked at QFC and was making about $20 an hour. She said, ‘You know, you would be great at this job.’  And I was like, ‘Yeah, sign me up. That sounds incredible.’ So I got a job, and I started in the deli and then I just worked my way up from there to floor manager, then to a coordinator and then assistant store leader and then store leader.

I understand you were a soccer player. How did playing soccer, and participating in team sports help prepare you for your current role?

Growing up and being in soccer and playing soccer – that was my entire life. I mean, I lived it, slept it, drank it. Everything was soccer and involved soccer. I was told from an early age I was a natural-born leader, but I didn’t understand what that really meant but I do know that I’m very competitive and when I get amped up, I can amp up the people around me. What I learned from soccer is it’s all about a team. You know, you need everybody involved and on the same level as you and that’s really about inspiring the team, leading with positivity and having attainable goals, and then taking those small goals and then increasing them over time until you’re all doing the best that you can do.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your job, or your favorite part of what you get to do every day?

The people. I feel like that’s such a cliché answer, but it’s true. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful to be a leader in the grocery industry. When I started in the deli in North Seattle, I had no idea I would build the relationships I did with the people in that community and then, the more I moved, the more communities I was able to be a part of. As a grocery store manager, you have a unique position to facilitate community in your area and that’s a position a lot of businesses don’t get. You see young families grow and watch kids go from elementary school all the way through high school. Then those families are coming with us to food drives and doing things to help nonprofits and local schools and really build community and a family structure where we all work together to make the communities stronger and better. I had no idea I was going to have that when my career started. It’s 100 percent the people that motivate and drive me.

What would you say is the most challenging part of what you do today? 

Understanding priorities. We get a lot thrown at us every single day, and everybody’s priority is top priority. My top priority is my people, my store and my community. That always comes first, but organizing my list of 50 things to do so I can manage to get everything that is top priority accomplished each day is a challenge. You could work 24 hours straight and still have things to do, but you have to manage the priorities to make sure that your people are happy, that the store looks good and that we’re fulfilling our mission. I think I’ve been very blessed. This industry has given me such a amazing glide path to success. And I’ve been able to work under some amazing district managers, being part of a district team and so I see what their priorities are and I’ve taken that into my position now. And I mess up, and I fail, and I learn from those failures, and that’s just another way to try to figure out even more what my priorities are. 

Can you think of one person or one day or one event or that stands out to you that really taught you something or made you think differently about what you do that helped build you to where you are today?

Oh, absolutely. We restructured three different times within a year so I went from being a produce floral coordinator to a center store coordinator to a produce floral field specialist. I understood that my next step after coordinator would be store manager. Understand that I realize I was not owed anything, but I felt like the promotion I received was a step in a different direction that I wasn’t expecting because I felt like I wanted a different challenge. I was told not to worry about it, and a few months later, I was asked to go back to the stores as an assistant store leader. I wasn’t necessarily excited about that.

One day, I was walking across the parking lot in the rain to the corporate store to do something, and walked past our division president’s office window and I heard my name being called, and she was calling to me from her window. So I go over there, and she tells me that she understands that I’m disappointed, but she said, ‘I want you to trust in the process that we have. We have a path set out for you, and I understand that there’s always going to be times where we pivot, but you just need to trust in yourself and trust in the process.’ I just remember thinking how easy it is to see somebody and then just turn the other direction, especially if you know that they’re not necessarily happy or enthusiastic about a decision that you probably had your hand in. But she didn’t do that. She took time to talk with me — in the rain, nonetheless — about how I was feeling. That was a huge moment for me. I took those words and, as much as I can, I’m not going to turn my head to other people. I’m going to engage in that conversation as much as I can, because that interaction changed my direction. I think for me, what I’m constantly trying to work on is to take the ego out of myself, because it’s not about me. It really is about our stores and the community and everything else. 

Walk me through a day in your life as a grocery store manager.

So my day starts roughly about 7 a.m. when I’m coming into what we call that ‘front porch’ area of the store. I spend a lot of time outside, making sure that my customer’s first impressions of the store is amazing. Then, I come into the store and I take about an hour to an hour-and-a-half to walk around to each department, to every person. I say, ‘Hi.’ I do my first touch – like a people walk. That’s before I come upstairs and put my bag down, I make sure to check in with everybody to see where they’re at, see how they’re doing, see how each department is doing, see how the store looks. 

At 9:30 every day, we have a huddle. We go over sales, we go over any mystery shops, go over any birthdays or anniversaries or anything that is going to be highlighted in somebody’s day. We celebrate as much as we possibly can. Our morning huddles should be all about uplifting the store so we can get the day going off on a good foot. And then after that, I do my store walk. I have the pleasure of being what I would consider a training store – we train a lot of new ASLs (assistant store leaders) and so we constantly have new class members in the store which means I spend time with them, getting them off on the right foot and walking with them through coaching, teaching, training, doing our store walks. And then I’m checking with the crews that are coming in — second, third shifts — checking in with them, seeing how they’re doing. Generally, I do that until about 1 p.m.

Then, at 1 p.m., I try to grab a quick lunch, catch up on any emails that we have, and then, go back down to the sales floor to continue to do hourly touches. 

I end my day usually every 6 p.m. I will check my emails and filter out any communication that I need to and then I end my day with goodbyes. So I’ll walk the store. Make sure to check in with everybody and say goodbye to the associates when I leave.

What do those customer interactions/touchpoints you referenced look like? 

A lot of our customers are long-time community members and a lot of the customer feedback is really positive. We have really, really great interactions with our customers. Customers love our front-end associates. We’re also getting a lot of new people in the area, too. There’s a lot of growth in Redmond. It’s a little tech town so we have a lot of new people coming in and asking where things are. So, while a lot of both new and long-time customers are letting us know that they think the store is great, I also love it when our shoppers who have been shopping here 30-plus years come in and let us know what we could do better. Listening to them and responding to them is what makes us better.

This is the fourth installment in a series of spotlights on FMI — The Food Industry Association’s 2024 Store Manager Award winners. Click below to read the first three installments:


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